§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a further sum, not exceeding £9,124,000, be granted to His Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charges for the following Civil Services and Revenue Departments for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1911, namely:—
|Board of Agriculture and Fisheries||30,000|
|Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens||26,000|
|Houses of Parliament Buildings||7,000|
|Campbell - Bannerman Memorial||700|
|Miscellaneous Legal Buildings, Great Britain||10,000|
|Art and Science Buildings, Great Britain||9,000|
|Diplomatic and Consular Buildings||14,000|
|Labour Exchange Buildings, Great Britain||20,000|
|Public Buildings, Great Britain||50,000|
|Surveys of the United Kingdom||20,000|
|Harbours under the Board of Trade||8,000|
|Rates on Government Property||60,000|
|Public Works and Buildings, Ireland||25,000|
|United Kingdom and England:—|
|House of Lords Offices||4,000|
|House of Commons Offices||5.000|
|Treasury and Subordinate Departments||19,000|
|Privy Council Office||1,500|
|Board of Trade.||60,000|
|Mercantile Marine Services||14,000|
|Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade||—|
|Civil Service Commission||3,000|
|Exchequer and Audit Department||6,000|
|Friendly Societies Registry||1,000|
|Local Government Board||35,000|
|Mint (including Coinage)||—|
|National Debt Office||1,000|
|Public Record Office||3,000|
|Public Works Loan Commission||—|
|Registrar General's Office||4,000|
|Stationery and Printing||150,000|
|Woods, Forests, etc., Office of||2,000|
|Works and Public Buildings, Office of||20,000|
|Secretary for Scotland, Office of||1,000|
|Registrar General's Office||500|
|Local Government Board||2,000|
|Lord Lieutenant's Household||500|
|Chief Secretary's Offices and Subordinate Departments||2,500|
|Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction||100,000|
|Charitable Donations and Bequests Office||200|
|Local Government Board||10,000|
|Public Record Office||500|
|Public Works Office||5,000|
|Registrar General's Office||1,000|
|Valuation and Boundary Survey||2,000|
|United Kingdom and England:—|
|Miscellaneous Legal Expenses||8,000|
|Supreme Court of Judicature||50,000|
|Police, England and Wales||20,000|
|Prisons, England and the Colonies||150,000|
|Reformatory and Industrial Schools, Great Britain||70,000|
|Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum||7,000|
|Law Charges and Courts of Law||6,000|
|Register House, Edinburgh||4,000|
|Law Charges and Criminal Prosecutions||10,000|
|Supreme Court of Judicature, and other Legal Departments||12,000|
|County Court Officers, etc.||12,000|
|Dublin Metropolitan Police||24,000|
|Royal Irish Constabulary||260,000|
|Reformatory and Industrial Schools||27,000|
|Dundrum Criminal Lunatic Asylum||2,000|
|United Kingdom and England:—|
|Board of Education||1,900,000|
|National Portrait Gallery||500|
|Scientific Investigation, etc.||14,000|
|Universities and Colleges, Great Britain, and Intermediate Education, Wales||16,000|
|Endowed Schools Commissioners||100|
|Universities and Colleges, Ireland||20,000|
|Diplomatic and Consular Services||100,000|
|Telegraph Subsidies and Pacific Cable||5,000|
|Cyprus (Grant in Aid)||39,000|
|Superannuation and Retired Allowances||150,000|
|Miscellaneous Charitable and other Allowances||300|
|Hospitals and Charities, Ireland||4,000|
|Savings Banks and Friendly Societies Deficiencies Old Age Pensions||—|
|Repayments to the Local Loans Fund||—|
|Ireland Development Grant||90,000|
|Prince and Princess of Wales (Visit to South Africa)||—|
|Customs and Excise||300,000|
|Total for Civil Services and Revenue Departments||£9,124,000 "|
§ Mr. CHARLES BATHURST
On behalf of the agricultural community I desire to congratulate the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Edward Strachey) on his appointment as the official representative of the Board of Agriculture in this House. We are now in a position to appeal to him directly and bring before the House agricultural grievances with some chance of the Board of Agriculture taking immediate cognisance of them. May I also congratulate the hon. Baronet upon ceasing to occupy the somewhat impossible position which he had to occupy prior to the passing of the recent Board of Agriculture Act, and upon being put in a position more suitable to the enormous importance of the great industry which he represents in this House? May I express my regret, which I know is shared by many agricultural Members, that such a short notice as three days has been given in regard to the taking of this Vote, because that period is not sufficient to satisfy agricultural Members who represent a large number of agricultural associations throughout the country, and give utterance to their views? I should also like to draw attention to the fact that this week is the week of the Royal Show at Liverpool, an annual function which it behoves every agricultural Member to attend almost in preference to his Parliamentary duties.
Reference was made during the discussion on the Vote of another Government Department last week to the inattention of Parliament to the proper status of that Department and the proper remuneration of its officials. Whatever was said last week with regard to the Local Government Board applies, in my opinion, with much greater force to the Board of Agriculture at the present time. Not only is the President of the Board of Agriculture, and consequently all the officials of that 46 Department remunerated on a very much lower scale than similar officials in other Government Departments that are supposed to occupy the same status, but the" Board of Agriculture is housed in three separate buildings, and not under one roof, as is the case with every other great Government Department. The buildings in which the offices of the Board of Agriculture are to be found in Whitehall Place, in Parliament Street, and in St. James's Square are wholly unworthy of the work which is now being carried on within their walls and the enormous importance of that work to the nation at large. I hope during the coming year the Board will celebrate its twenty-first birthday by the Government making a suitable present to this Department of a suitable building in which to transact its business. I should like to ask the Secretary to the Board of Agriculture exactly what are to be the duties of the Advisory Committee of which we read in this morning's papers. Is it a Committee set up to advise the Board on all scientific questions dealing directly with the improvement of agriculture? Personally I should welcome the formation of such a Committee, but I hope its deliberations are not going to prevent the Board spending very considerable sums of money for the advancement of agriculture out of the Development Fund. What I wish to know is whether the Committee I have alluded to is in any sense a permanent Committee, or is it merely a Committee established for some indefinite time to advise the Board from time to time upon the matters referred to it? Is it going to be a temporary Committee which is to take evidence and report to the Board as to the particular respects in which, from a scientific point of view, agriculture requires assistance, and the source from which such assistance is to come? If it is intended to be a temporary Committee to report to the Board before further assistance can be obtained, all I can say is that the agricultural community will have to whistle for a long time for those funds for which they have been clamouring for various purposes of research, co-operation, suitable agricultural education, and other purposes for a long time. May I point out the condition of starvation in which agriculture is at the present time in this country? The Grant to the Board of Agriculture from the Imperial Exchequer for all purposes, including the maintenance of Kew Gardens, in which 47 most agriculturists have not any particular interest, last year amounted to £173,169, and in that amount there was the paltry sum of £12,300 devoted to that most important of all subjects with which the Board of Agriculture has to deal, namely, agricultural education. Comparing this with the sister isle as regards agricultural matters, I very much covet the sums which flow so readily into agricultural channels from the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction in Ireland. In the sister isle we find at the present time that £234,817 of public money is being devoted every year to agricultural purposes. It is worthy of notice that the Grant to the French Department of Agriculture out of the French Exchequer amounts to £1,200,000, and on agricultural education alone in France £180,000 is being spent, which is considerably more than is voted to our Board of Agriculture for all purposes in Great Britain. If we go further afield and take a little European State like Wurtemberg we find that £72,600 is devoted to agricultural purposes out of a total revenue of £4,500,000. Surely the time has come—if you are going to do any real good in our time to put a larger number of persons on the soil of this country with a view to their profitably carrying on the agricultural industry—when the Board of Agriculture ought to be fully equipped to carry out the work which it exists to carry out on behalf of the agricultural industry, whether those engaged in it are large or small holders.
I should like to congratulate the Board of Agriculture on the reduction in the outbreaks of, at any rate, two of the scheduled diseases under the Contagious Diseases of Animals Acts—that is to say, in the case of glanders and sheep scab. With regard to glanders, I should like to ask why it is that in Ireland the disease has been entirely stamped out, there being. I believe, no case whatever in existence there at the present time, and why in this country glanders continues more or less persistent, although the cases are not so frequent as some six years ago. Surely if it is possible to stamp out this serious and insidious disease in Ireland, it is also possible to stamp it out in this country. I cannot help feeling that the regulations of the Board with regard to sheep scab are somewhat onerous, and in some ways and at some periods of the year injuriously affect the health of our flocks. I cannot 48 quite understand why it is not possible to have two sheep dippings in the year—one in the early summer and another possibly in the early autumn, say in September— and so obviate the dipping which has to take place when ewes with lambs are sold in the cold months of the year, particularly in January and February. Before they leave the markets, if they are not sold, they have to be subjected to a further dipping. Those dippings in poisonous liquids result not only in serious chills to the ewes, but sometimes in cases of poisoning to the lambs.
I refer to swine fever with some little hesitation in view of the fact that a Departmental Committee is sitting to consider this disease. I should like to congratulate the Board on the fact that such a Committee has at last been set up, and I should like to ask the hon. Baronet whether it has not occurred to him that if some more strenuous measures were taken, even although they might cause a certain amount of unpopularity to the Board and possibly to himself, it might be possible to combat the disease in the way in which it is being combated in Ireland at the present time. I cannot help feeling that, if the Board would issue an order to the effect that all animals within the region of contagion from definitely diseased animals were to be slaughtered instead of being isolated, the number of outbreaks of swine fever would be reduced by something like 50 per cent, in twelve months. That, at any rate, has been the result of the more strenuous policy adopted by the Department of Agriculture in Ireland. It has evidenced the fact that slaughter rather than isolation is the best and most effective method of stamping out or at any rate of substantially reducing swine fever in the country. I should like to mention another fact which has come under my notice, and which I hope will not escape the notice of the Departmental Committee. In those parts of the West of England where the cloth industry is being carried on, in the Stroud Valley, in Gloucestershire, and in the Trowbridge district of Wiltshire you have a perpetual recrudescence of swine fever. There must be. some relation of cause and effect in this matter, and there must be something which comes into cloth manufacturing districts which brings with it the germ of swine fever. Might I suggest that this matter might usefully be brought before the Departmental Committee?
I sincerely hope we are coming near the end of these very vexatious restrictions 49 upon the movement of swine in this country. They are costing the country an enormous sum of money with little or no result as the figures show, and they are, in fact, stamping out, or threatening to stamp out, the feeding of pigs as the primary industry of the agricultural labourer. There can be no question that it is not in the best interests of agriculturists, and least of all of farm labourers, that there should be enormous fluctuations in the pig trade. It means that it is becoming an unsuitable industry for the agricultural labourer, and if there is one industry more than another which I should like to see, if possible, eventually left to the agricultural labourer as his particular industry it is that of the breeding and feeding of pigs. But unless these harassing restrictions are done away with it is going to be practically impossible for a small man to carry on pig-keeping.
The outbreaks of anthrax last January were in excess of any figures for the last six years. I think for one month during the last six years the outbreaks did reach the exact figure they touched in January last, but they certainly have never exceeded the figures they reached in that month, and no four months during the last eight years have been so serious as regards anthrax as the last four months of this year. Anthrax is rapidly spreading over this country. It is to be found in something like sixteen or eighteen counties at the present time, showing that it is not centred in one part only of the country, and we are beginning to read, I am sorry to say frequently, of cases in which those attending cattle or those engaged in slaughter-houses contract the disease and die from it. Surely the time has come when the Board should take very much stronger measures in order to stamp out this disease, or when it should at least institute an inquiry to find out what measures should be taken. The hon. Baronet, in reply to a question I put to him last week, made a statement which I am bound to say left a feeling of some little insecurity. He told me there was some doubt as to the accuracy of the diagnosis of anthrax. I have been always given to understand by bacteriologists there is no bacillus so easy to identify as the anthrax bacillus, and, if there is inaccurate diagnosis of the disease going on, it seems to indicate that incompetent persons, who are really not fitted to give an opinion on this disease at all, are 50 carrying on the investigations. I was also sorry to hear that the advisers of the Board entertained no hope whatever of stamping out this disease in this country. The time has arrived when the Board ought to set up a special committee to inquire into anthrax, similar to that which is now sitting to inquire into swine fever.
A very extraordinary case was reported in the public press only three weeks ago. It was the case of a man in Barnstaple, Devon, who was found to be suffering from anthrax as the result of passing between two diseased carcases in a slaughter-house. They were not known to be diseased, and no suspicion of anthrax was aroused until the man was found to be suffering from the disease from which he subsequently died. The suggestion is —possibly the hon. Baronet can remove any apprehension on the matter—that those carcases were about to be consumed as human food and that the presence of anthrax would, never have been discovered had it not been for the fact that this unfortunate man touched the carcases and died from the disease. Recently the Executive Committee of the Wiltshire County Council brought to the notice of the Board of Agriculture the fact that anthrax in that county is traceable to imported feeding stuffs which have come into contact with foreign skins containing anthrax germs. I should like to hear whether the Board of Agriculture has inquired into that matter and whether they can give some assurance either that contagion was not from that source or that the Government are prepared to take some measures to prevent anthrax being communicated in such a way in future.
I want to ask the hon. Baronet (Sir E. Strachey) whether he has had brought to his notice or to the notice of the Board the fact that the number of skins of cattle infected with the warble is very much on the increase? I understand from various tanneries throughout the country that it is now very difficult to obtain British skins that are not more or less honeycombed with the warble puncture. I heard this morning of a case at Downton, Wilts, which they tell me is not altogether uncommon, in which 288 warbles were found in a single ox hide. If that is so, it shows that a considerable amount of money is being lost owing to the commercial value of hides being depreciated, and it indicates that the warble fly is on the increase. I am aware that scientific men are not altogether agreed as to the origin of the puncture in the ox skin due to the larva of the 51 warble fly, whether it is taken off the ground or licked off their legs in the form of eggs, the larvæ subsequently developing in the body of the ox and finding their way to the other side of the skin, thereby making a little hole. Surely the Board might usefully direct some inquiry to find out in what way the warble does find its way into cattle and what is the best way of dealing with the skin, or possibly with the pasture, in order to prevent a further development of this particular pest. I want to speak for a few moments about the proposed removal of the embargo on the importation of Argentine cattle. I am quite sure that those who can look back for as long a period as thirty-five years— I do not profess to do so myself—would view with horror the suggestion that there is any chance whatever of foot-and-mouth disease being conveyed to the herds of this country, and would agree that every effort should be made to keep possibly infected animals out of our ports. When one looks back to the history of those times, and realises the devastation that was caused by such diseases as foot-and-mouth disease and pleuro-pneumonia, and the consequent shortage of meat in this country, as well as the resulting increase of cost to the consumer, it must be agreed by all reasonable persons that it would be a short-sighted policy, at any rate at the present time, to put pressure on the Board to remove the restrictions which at present exist. I do not put this forward merely in the interests of the agricultural community; but they, after all, have enjoyed such degree of prosperity as they have enjoyed during the last thirty years period of serious depression in agriculture so far as cereal crops are concerned owing to their immunity their stock has enjoyed from disease—an immunity which has enabled the farmers to hold their own and reap some profit out of the industry in which they are engaged. I do sincerely hope that no prejudice with regard to the possible increase in the cost of meat will stand in the way of the Board maintaining a very firm attitude, and that so long as any trace of foot-and-mouth disease exists in the Argentine Republic, as it undoubtedly does at present, no attempt will be made to remove the existing restrictions.
I have next a few words to say with regard to the milk industry. We stand exactly in the same position as two years 52 ago, so far as the restrictions that are imposed upon the production and sale of milk are concerned. The question has been recently debated in this House on the London County Council (General Powers Bill, in which the agricultural Members enjoyed a temporary victory upon which we feel entitled to congratulate ourselves. But still there is no uniformity at the present time in the treatment of dairy farmers by municipalities, and we again ask that an early opportunity may be taken to introduce legislation which shall put all dairy farmers on the same footing, whilst securing uniformity of administration throughout the whole country. So far as impure or diseased milk is concerned, during the last four years we have had three separate Reports from the Commission which was appointed to inquire into human and animal tuberculosis, and, almost immediately after the issuing of the third interim Report, the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board was introduced. I for one am sincerely glad that that Bill never became law. First of all, because it was founded upon the third interim Report of the Tuberculosis Commission, which was not in any way based on the experiments that had been conducted or on the evidence that was brought before the Commission. Although that Report suggested that a very considerable amount of disease and loss of life, especially among infants and children, must be attributed to the consumption of cows' milk containing tuberculous baccili, there is absolutely nothing in the evidence adduced to justify the Commissioners putting that forward as one of their conclusions. In the third interim Report we find it stated that tuberculosis involving the udder is comparatively common in cows. Now I have searched carefully through the evidence brought before the Commission, and I have examined carefully the extraordinary experiments conducted by it—experiments of an unconvincing nature—and I cannot find any basis for the suggestion that tuberculosis involving the udder is comparatively common among cows. As a matter of fact we know that it is of extremely rare occurrence among them, and if, on this Report, we are going to have a Milk Bill brought in which is going to put harassing restrictions on the dairying industry, a serious injustice will be done to the agricultural community and the price of milk will 53 become a very serious factor to the poor people of this country. The more I read about tuberculosis the more and more am I convinced that the danger arising from the milk of tuberculous cattle, as long as the udder is not affected, is a very small danger indeed. —a very small danger in bringing about tuberculosis in the large urban centres of this country. A much more serious factor is the scarcity—the increasing scarcity—of good milk to be obtained at a reasonable price in those localities. All the leading authorities on the Continent are pressing this fact home, that the amount of mortality to be found amongst children in the large urban centres is largely traceable to the scarcity of milk, and not to its diseased condition. I would give a note of warning as regards scientific opinion at this particular stage of the investigation into this disease, when one remembers the very serious opinions on this subject which scientific men have committed themselves to within the last twenty years. In the year 1888 a Departmental Committee sat to consider, amongst other things, the subject of tuberculosis in cattle, and in its Report (page 25, par. 79) we find this statement:—Since all authorities are agreed that the disease is very marked by heredity, we think it highly desirable that breeders should, in their own as well as in the public interest, discontinue breeding from tuberculous stock.And one member; who still ranks among the leading surgeons of the country, felt so strongly upon this point that he filed a Supplementry Report, in which he said:—Tuberculosis is notorious, even among the laity, as a disease which is transmitted from parent to offspring.…. Further, this generally received truth has been completely confirmed by the results of scientific investigation …. considering therefore the extreme importance of this point, I think the act of wittingly breeding from animals so affected should be made an indictable offence.That was the unanimous Report of a Departmental Committee which sat twenty-two years ago. It is now common knowledge that every word of what I have just read is absolutely untrue. It is perfectly well known that tuberculosis is not hereditary either among human beings or amongst cattle, but if that had been taken as gospel truth and acted upon in the year 1888 we never should have built up the great trade with Argentina which at present exists, as a large proportion of the stock sent there has been bred from known tuberculous cattle. I think it ought to be made perfectly clear to the public generally not merely that tubercu- 54 losis is not an hereditary disease, but that there is no proved danger in obtaining milk from cows that react to the tuberculin test. There is absolutely nothing to justify such a conclusion in that third interim Report—which describes in somewhat unpleasant language how various animals were fed on the excrement of tuberculous cattle, and that when they had been submitted to that extremely unpleasant process very few of them developed tuberculosis, and that as to others that had tuberculous germs from very violently affected cattle inoculated into their blood stream, in only about one-tenth of the cases did the animal suffer from tuberculosis afterwards. In view of this evidence it is well to impress upon the Board that it ought to be extremely careful that any Milk Bill is founded upon no other considerations than this, that the milk obtained even from tuberculous cattle—those which react to the tuberculin test—is not unsafe unless the animal is suffering from a diseased udder or very visibly emaciated from tuberculosis. May I sound one other note of warning to the urban authorities who are sending inspectors into the country to examine cowsheds and cattle? I fear that the time is coming when in the talk about animals being visibly emaciated from tuberculosis and reacting to the tuberculin test, it will be found that the animal reported as thus suffering will be the very animal which is giving the largest amount of good pure milk. This animal may be condemned as a source of danger to the public health when it is not so in fact, and when it may be one of those breeds which, like the Jerseys or the Ayrshires, do not put on a large amount of flesh and may therefore be deemed to be seriously emaciated when in fact they are the very best possible type of milch cows and just the type an increase of which we should like to see developed in this country. I look with alarm to the time when the somewhat uninstructed officers of the urban authorities are going into the country districts condemning right and left not merely the cowsheds and byres, but also the cattle because in their uninstructed opinion they fear them to be a source of danger to the public health.
I should like to congratulate the Board on having set up a Departmental Committee to consider how the export trade in cattle and horses, and other produce of our farms, can be extended and developed in foreign countries. May I take this opportunity of impressing on the Board the 55 eminent desirability of taking steps, possibly by imposing very serious penalties, to put a stop to the improper use of the tuberculin test in the case of pedigree cattle intended for exportation to Argentina or elsewhere? Two years ago there was, I will not say extensive fraud, but there were many cases of fraud being perpetrated by the use of the tuberculin test at too frequent intervals. As anyone who keeps pedigree cattle is aware, the use of the test too frequently entirely negatives its value, and at that time Argentine buyers, not unreasonably became alarmed at the extent to which this fraud—because it is a fraud—was going on amongst the less respectable cattle exporters in this country. The result was that very serious damage was done to those who were carrying on an industry in an honest way in this country. I should like to see most serious penalties imposed by Act of Parliament upon all those who are found to have improperly applied the tuberculin test in order to try and sell, as immune from tuberculosis, cattle which in the ordinary course would not have fetched a high price as pedigree cattle having been found to react to the tuberculin test.
As regards the traffic in decrepit horses, I hardly know how we stand at the present time, and whether the Government is going to give facilities for the Bill which has been introduced on the other side of the House.
§ Mr. CHARLES BATHURST
I will not refer any further to this Bill, but I should like to ask the hon. Baronet whether he will take more strenuous and effective steps than have hitherto been taken to put a stop to this description of traffic. The only effort that has been recently made by the Board is the issue of an Order which in my opinion is likely to be entirely ineffective to carry out what is intended. Under that Order it rests with the local veterinary inspectors to condemn horses as being unfit for the voyage to Belgium, or to the Netherlands, or any other foreign country if in their opinion such animal would have to undergo any unnecessary suffering. I was told in answer to a question which I put to the hon. Baronet that the terms of this Order followed closely Section 22 of the Diseases of Animals Act, 1894. I can find, on reference to that Act, 56 nothing whatever to indicate that it is not open to the Board of Agriculture to frame their Orders in any way that they choose in order to effect what they require, and if it is their desire at the present time to put a stop to this traffic in the case of all animals that are likely to undergo suffering of any sort, it is perfectly open to them to issue an order without using the word "unnecessary" which would enable the traffic to be put a stop to in all cases where any sort of suffering is likely to result. The President of the Board in another place said in reply to my Noble Friend the late President that it is the intention of the Board that the order shall be acted upon when any animal shall be shipped, which is likely to suffer any sort of physical pain, and surely it would be possible to put that into the order and so make it perfectly certain that the local authorities and the inspectors will carry out what the Board of Agriculture desire to see carried out.
I have read with very great pleasure and satisfaction the Report lately issued by the Small Holdings Commission, but it is very noticeable that it emphasises (in my opinion somewhat late in the day) the enormous importance of the development of cooperative principles amongst smallholders. If small holdings were going to be made an economic success, I have always held that we ought to have moved in the matter of developing co-operation either before or simultaneously with the development of small holdings, and my only fear is that many of the small holdings which have been created artificially under the Act will be found to be a failure because it has been found in this country as in other countries that the small man without adequate capital cannot compete with the larger man in cheap production, and cannot put his produce upon the market in competition with him without suffering serious loss. I venture to hope now that the Development Fund has been constituted, and applications are now being made for portions of that fund, that a very considerable proportion of it may be devoted to giving instruction in the principles of co-operation, and developing co-operative methods throughout the whole of the agricultural districts in this country, and with that development of cooperation there must be in this country, as has been found to be necessary in other countries, the development of agricultural credit banks. Whatever may be the land policy of the party opposite, I want to make it perfectly apparent, so far as I am 57 concerned, that these questions of cooperation and the development of agricultural co-operative credit banks are not party questions. They are questions on which hon. Members on both sides of the House take an interest, and therefore I venture to hope, as there seems to be absolute unanimity of opinion in regard to pushing forward both these schemes in connection with small holdings, that early opportunity may be taken to provide the funds without which such a work cannot be effectively carried out.
As regards the administration of the Small Holdings Act, I very much fear that the small holders in this country will not be satisfied with the present system of payment of instalments of capital and interest, but will demand ere long from the Government of the day, whichever Government it may be, that they shall enable them when, after a certain term of years, they have paid not merely the interest, but the capital value by instalments, of their holdings to become the actual owners of those holdings, and not leave the property to belong to the county council when they themselves have paid for it. I want to put in a special plea for the Agricultural Organisation Society. This society has been carrying on with very considerable difficulty and most inadequate means a most valuable work in this country in the direction of promoting cooperation amongst different sections of the agricultural community. It is perfectly true that the Government have given the society some little assistance during the last twelve months, and as a member of the committee of the society I should like to express our gratification that such Government money has been forthcoming, but with the development of small holdings there has been an enormous increase in the demand for the assistance which the Agricultural Organisation Society alone in this country is able to give, and although that financial assistance from the Treasury out of the small holdings account has been useful, the amount of additional work that has been necessitated by the passing of the Small Holdings Act has entailed more expense than the amount of the grant. The result is that the work that the society has been doing, which is directly referable to the passing of the Small Holdings Act, has resulted in putting the society into a more serious position in the matter of finance than it was before it took in hand this fresh work. It is proposed now that the society shall train a certain 58 number of organisers who shall thereby be put in a position to be employed by county councils in order to instruct intending or existing small holders in the principles of co-operation. I venture to hope that if the Agricultural Organisation Society embark upon this important work for the benefit of the county councils, and the agricultural community at large, the Government will see their way to give them a larger amount of public money than they have hitherto enjoyed.
May I refer, before I sit down, to the Fertilisers and Feeding-stuffs Act of 1906, and in this connection I want to ask the representative of the Board whether he cannot see his way to bring in a Bill which will do away with the necessity for the veto of the Board as regards prosecutions under the Act, because, although it might not be fair to say that the Act has become a dead letter in consequence, there is no doubt that a very considerable amount of fraud is at the present time being perpetrated upon agriculturists generally, and particularly upon small holders in consequence of the difficulty of prosecuting offenders under this Act. To give an instance of the way in which the Act is operating at the present time, after reading the first part of the Annual Report of the Board's Intelligence Department, which has been lately issued by the Board, I find on pages 40 to 45 that there were during last year (1909) in all thirty-eight cases of contravention of the Act brought to the notice of the Board. They were disposed of as follows: Prosecutions taken and fine imposed, two cases; prosecutions taken and costs only obtained, two; prosecutions taken, which failed, either being dismissed or withdrawn owing to some informality, six; cautions given by the Board, seven cases; no action whatever taken, twenty; and cases still pending, one; making in all the total of thirty-eight. So that there were only two complete and two partial successes in prosecutions under the Act, and there was failure in twenty-seven cases in which no action was taken. For only ten cases to be actually taken up by the Board for the whole of the year throughout Great Britain presents a very inadequate state of affairs. Before this Act, and when the county councils acted alone, a leading agricultural chemist informs me that he advised prosecution in a greater number of cases in a single year than the whole number in which action was taken last year.
59 What I would suggest is this: It is imperative under the Act for every county council to appoint an analyst, and also at least one sampler of these substances. It is also necessary under the Act for every appointment of an analyst to be made only with the approval of the Board. Surely, if the Board have in effect a veto as regards the appointment of the analyst, it is sufficient protection against vexatious prosecutions being brought against possibly undeserving persons. At the present time all the chief counties in England appoint fully qualified persons to act as county analysts, and if there are cases in which persons who are not fully qualified are being appointed, it is only for the Board to decline to approve of their appointment, or if such persons are appointed and prove to be incompetent to refuse to allow their appointments to continue. Surely, if the Board of Agriculture has power to veto these appointments, it cannot be necessary for them to veto also the prosecutions which county councils want to embark upon as well. To show the absurdity of the position which results from the hesitation of the Board to give their assent to a prosecution in any case which is not likely in their opinion to be successful, a case occurred not very long ago in the county of Worcester in which it was desired to prosecute the vendor of some cattle cake, and it was perfectly apparent from the analysis of the county analyst that it was distinctly a case in which the offender ought to be prosecuted. The matter was referred to the Board, which declined to give its consent to a prosecution. The Board was pressed to give its reasons, and the eventual answer was that a prosecution was undesirable because the vendor was "a person of small means and of weak intellect." If the purchasers of feeding stuffs and fertilisers are going to be allowed to suffer from the fraud of vendors because the latter happen to be of weak intellect, I can only say that the time has come when the Act ought to be amended, and the veto which at present exists ought to be withdrawn from the Board of Agriculture. I cannot help thinking that county councils will take a much larger interest in the administration of this Act, and the analysts whom they appoint will carry out their duties far more effectively, if they have the full responsibility for prosecutions and if the Board interferes in no way with such prosecutions, even though pos- 60 sibly it might still be allowed through the Government analyst to correct the analyses of the county officials.
May I congratulate the Board that at last there seems to be a prospect of their working in harmony with the Board of Education in reference to agricultural education? When the Report of the Departmental Committee upon agricultural education was presented the year before last and when it was subsequently followed by a counterblast from the Board of Education, in effect ridiculing all its recommendations, I think the agricultural public generally regarded both Government Departments with some suspicion, and thought they might very well do without either of them so far as agricultural education was concerned. We have waited a very long time for the Interdepartmental Committee to be appointed which was promised us last summer, and we have waited a still longer time for the rural education conference to be set up. I understand that the two Boards are now prepared to issue a Minute definitely constituting this rural education conference, which shall be the last link between the two Boards in the matter of agricultural education, and enable continuity of administration and co-ordination of every branch of agricultural education to be attained in the future. I should like to ask the hon. Baronet whether the Minute is likely to be issued immediately constituting this rural educational conference so as to enable those who have been appointed by a large number of different agricultural associations all over the country to represent them on this conference, to take part in deciding what shall be the policy of the two Boards in future as regard not merely elementary education, but secondary and continuation and technical instruction in the rural districts.
We still wait to hear something from the Board with regard to what farmers are expected to do in the matter of providing horses for the military requirements of this country. We heard from the Secretary for War on the Supplementary War Estimates earlier in the Session, that there was a scheme which was being put before the Board of Agriculture, and for which they expected to obtain their co-operation, which would result in a considerable number of horses being raised of the different types which the War Office required, and being sold by the farmers at a reasonable price at three years old instead of at a later age. I want to know when 61 the time is coming when there is going to be any inducement to farmers to raise the horses on their farms which the Government require. I am quite sure that there is going to be no such inducement unless an average price is given for these three year olds of something like the amount that has been given previously for older horses, and in the second place, I should like to impress upon the Board the desirability of indicating clearly to potential breeders what are the different types of horse which the Government requires. We have heard a great deal about a certain pamphlet which was issued by the Board of Agriculture, I believe two years ago, which contained pictures of the sort of horses which the Government require. I have tried in vain to obtain a copy of the pamphlet. I probably belong to a larger number of agricultural associations than any Member of the House, but through none of those channels has one of those pamphlets reached me. I am still living in hopes that I may see, through the pictures which have been circulated by the Board of Agriculture to some one, I do not know whom, the types of horses which it is desired that we should raise.
The Development Fund has at last been constituted. I do not know whether there is any money at present as representing the Development Fund, but if there is not, I hope there will be in the early future. I want to ask the hon. Baronet, as representing the Department through whom all applications coming from agricultural sources will have to filter, whether he is able to say in what direction applications are likely to be successful, or, to put it in another way, whether the Board has already made up its mind, either itself to apply for or to approve applications for sums of money to be devoted to special purposes, either to purposes of research, of agricultural education, agricultural co-operation, or possibly to making experiments in what may be either new or revived agricultural industries. May I particularly mention the merits of three industries which either have not previously existed or have failed, in my opinion, through the non-participation of a Government Department in their inaugural stages. One of them is the industry of sugar beet. It is perfectly evident to most of those who have considered the subject of the growing of sugar beet that it is possible to grow it on many soils and in many parts of the country at a margin of profit, at 62 present prices or at the prices likely to obtain in the next two or three years, if only the Government will extend sympathetic consideration to the industry in its early stages. I do not want to raise the question of the Excise Duties, although I believe during the period in which we have been a Free Trade country there are many precedents in favour of making no levy as regards Excise Duty in the early stages.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The question of dealing with Excise Duties requires legislation, and is therefore not in order.
§ Mr. CHARLES BATHURST
Apart from the question of Excise, it is certainly open to the Government and the Board of Agriculture, if helped out of the Development Fund, to do something to carry out experiments not merely in the production of sugar beet, but also in the manufacture of sugar, so as to show clearly that it can be carried on on commercial lines, and to show in what parts of the country it can be attempted with the greatest advantage. But, in addition to sugar beet, I should like to mention two other possible industries— tobacco and flax. Tobacco cultivation is eminently suited to a small holder, because it demands more individual attention than most other crops. I do not know what the experience of our Irish friends is. I am told a good deal of Irish tobacco is not fit to smoke, but, however that may be, I believe the Irish have demonstrated the possibility of growing several different kinds of tobacco, some of a different character from what we generally buy from our tobacconists, but perfectly successfully and at a fair profit. If it can be done in Ireland there is no reason why it should not also be done in other parts of the United Kingdom. I should like to see the Board of Agriculture set up an experiment on a large scale, in which the crops can be handled and also cured in bulk. Until that is done, I do not think there will be very much inducement for small holders to grow a crop to which they might otherwise usefully turn their attention. Above all, I want to put forward the merits of flax. Flax is a crop which used to be grown in this country, and the sole reason why it is not being grown to-day is because it was left to individuals to ret their own produce, and the result was that a very irregular staple was produced. Linseed is at a very high figure to-day and linseed cake is a costly article. It is one of those feeding stuffs 63 which is more and more in demand amongst those who want to put early matured stock upon the market at a reasonable profit. With the increasing consumption of linseed cake, and with the sole difficulty, owing to the individual not being able to turn out a regular staple, of making this particular product a commercial success, I want to urge upon the Board of Agriculture, possibly with the help of a portion of the Development Fund, to set up a central curing and wracking factory, supervised by an expert to which the produce of the immediate district can be sent to be retted. I notice that several Members on this side of the House seem to ridicule the idea that flax could be reintroduced as a paying industry. I have inquired into the question to some extent, and I live in a part of the country where flax has been grown, and is still grown to a small extent, and I have every reason to believe that if the Government can show by experiment how the fibre can be converted in an economic way, in a similar way to what it is in certain parts of the Continent, it ought again to be a thriving industry.
I want to ask the hon. Baronet whether it is not a fact that all sums which will be derived from the Development Fund for agricultural purposes will be directed into entirely new channels? What I mean to ask by that question is whether I am right in supposing that no sums derived from the Development Fund will simply replace sums coming from other sources for similar purpose at the present time? For instance, sums are now coming from the Treasury under several of the different heads specified in Section I. of the Development Act. There are £7,200 for the development of agriculture and forestry, £12,300—a trifling sum—for agricultural education, £6,900 for agricultural research and experiments, £6,663 for the improvement of live stock, £16,667 for light railways, £18,400 for fisheries, and £98,601 for harbours. Am I right in supposing that no part of the Development Fund is intended to replace any of these items? It will be a great hardship upon those who desire to see a much larger amount of money devoted in future, as has been done in other countries, to agricultural research, and in particular to agricultural education and agricultural co-operation, if a large amount of this fund is going to be diverted to objects which are already paid for out of other moneys.
64 In conclusion, let me say it is rather a sad fact to note from the annual Report of the Board that the value and productivity of agricultural land have been steadily decreasing during the last thirty years in this country, and that all that time the burdens upon agricultural land have been going steadily up. A good deal has been said recently about the desirability of taxing the land. I think sometimes the word "land" is used in a most ambiguous sense, not clearly indicating that there is a substantial difference between agricultural land and other kinds of land. As a matter of fact, during the last twenty-seven years there has been a reduction in the annual value of agricultural land of over £17,000,000. That represents a state of affairs that is absolutely unparalleled in any other country of Europe or, indeed, of the civilised world. I am of opinion that in dealing with agricultural problems—and all agricultural problems, if I may say so, are national problems—we are merely skimming over the surface and not delving deep in order to find out why the agricultural population is drifting away into the large urban centres, and why the agricultural land of this country has become less and less cultivated every year of our existence. That is a large question I know, but I hope that the Government will in the early future set up a Royal Commission which will inquire as rapidly as possible into the underlying reasons why there is this distressing exodus of the agricultural population to the towns, and inquire also into what are the really effective means by which the people can be kept and maintained on the agricultural land in this country in a condition of prosperity, if not of wealth. It is all very well to constitute small holdings, but it is no use having a large number of small holdings unless the persons put upon them can exist in a condition of comfort. It seems to me that we have got to put fiscal and other prejudices entirely out of our minds in order to deal fairly with this most serious of all national questions. There is no question more serious, and if we are to deal with it effectively we can only deal with it, not in any piecemeal fashion, but by going to the whole root of the matter and possibly finding that there is something rotten in the state of Great Britain at the present time which requires immediate remedy. In almost every direction we are trying' to remedy ills which possibly we might prevent if only we inquired further into the origin and reason for the continuance 65 of those ills. We are spending enormous sums upon our Poor Law. We are spending increasingly large sums upon our lunatic asylums (and I think it is a very significant fact), and we are spending a large sum at the present time upon the physical condition of the children in our schools. That is a very serious question which will have to be taken in hand in a much more serious way than we have hitherto attacked it All this time we have not taken any fundamental measures to prevent these conditions. We have long drifted, and the problem has become every year more serious. May I hope that the Board of Agriculture will use its influence in the direction of obtaining at an early date an inquiry into this most serious state of matters in order to probe it to its very depths, to make, if possible, this country much more self-sustaining, and to promote, in future, its physical, moral, and mental health, upon which alone the greatness of the nation can be built up and maintained.
§ Sir WILLIAM COLLINS
In the long and interesting speech which the hon. Member (Mr. Charles Bathurst) has made to the Committee he has travelled over a very large portion of the whole area of the administrative energy of the Board of Agriculture. I was glad to notice in the early part of his speech that he took the opportunity of calling attention to a subject which I know he has studied closely himself, namely, the Orders under which the contagious diseases of animals are dealt with at the present time by the Board. During the past four or five years, by question and answer, and sometimes by speech in Debate on Supply, I have endeavoured to draw the attention of the representative of the Board to some of those matters, and notably to the case of swine fever, the statistics for which in the last ten or twelve years have been eminently unsatisfactory, although I have "been assured by the representative of the Board, when I have put questions in the House, that the Board was well satisfied with the methods adopted in dealing with that disease. Well, I am bound to say I was gratified to learn at an early part of this Session that a Departmental Committee, presided over by the hon. Member for the Rye Division (Mr. Courthope), had been appointed to inquire into the whole question of swine fever and ascertain whether more satisfactory measures for dealing with that disease could be adopted 66 than those stamping - out proceedings, which may have been highly successful in regard to other animal diseases, but to which particular mode of dealing with swine fever does not seem to lend itself. I was glad to notice that the hon. Member (Mr. Charles Bathurst) drew attention to the important relation which must ever exist between scientific knowledge as to the diseases of animals and the particular administrative measures on which we rely for their restriction or eradication. He called attention to the change in scientific opinion which had taken place in regard to tuberculosis. He quoted from a report published in 1888, from which it appeared that it was then claimed that the whole tendency of authoritative opinion was in favour of the idea of the hereditary transmission of the disease. Nowadays the tendency of authoritative opinion has been to emphasise the capabilities of its communication by contagion or inoculation. The hon. Member, I think, rather tended to accept the teaching of the late Professor Koch, and deprecated the suggestion that tuberculous disease when bovine was liable to be communicated with very great frequency to human beings. I say that is a question on which the last word of science has not yet been said, but I agree with the hon. Member in his statement that tuberculosis of the udder, to which much attention has been paid, is a relatively rare disease. Some seventeen years ago, when I was Chairman of the Public Control Committee of the London County Council, there was some apprehension of foot-and-mouth disease spreading in London, and I remember I directed an inspection to be made of all cowsheds and dairies in London for foot-and-mouth disease. I also particularly instructed the inspectors at the same time to make special inquiry as to cases of tuberculosis of the udder, and I was amazed at the small number of cases brought out by that investigation. I am afraid there has been a tendency to overrate the frequency of that disease. I agree that such cases of that disease ought to be dealt with promptly under the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act. Science indicates that there is a danger of the communication of disease when a tubercular udder exists. I agree with the hon. Member that we must always adopt the best administrative procedure upon the latest ascertainable scientific opinion. It should be remembered, however, that that opinion varies within relatively wide limits, especially 67 in the case of tubercular disease. In the case of swine fever, foot - and - mouth disease, and pleuro-pneumonia bacteriological research has not shown that the diseases are due to any particular morphological organism as is claimed in the case of anthrax. There is a large body of evidence to show that morphological organism, which is associated with the disease in the case of tuberculosis, does not exist in the case of foot-and-mouth disease, swine fever, and pleuro-pneumonia. Any number of organisms have been discovered and supposed to be the causes of these diseases, and I think they have all now been abandoned by the most recent researches. We are told that if there be one in the case of swine fever, foot-and-mouth disease, and pleuro-pneumonia it is invisible to the highest power of the microscope. The hon. Member referred to anthrax. He thought it was so simple to diagnose that it must be due to incompetence on the part of the observer when not discovered. In regard to anthrax, however, there are certain breeds of sheep which are insusceptible to inoculation with the bacillus even in the most virulent form. Possibly in the case of tubercle that also obtains. Professor Koch in one of his later addresses distinctly insisted upon tuberculosis being due to soil as well as seed, and pointed to the overcrowded homes of the poor as the sources of this disease, and urging that we must have regard to the treatment of the soil in eradicating diseases of this description as well as to the seed. I was hoping that, just as swine fever was now the subject of renewed investigation, foot-and-mouth disease and possibly glanders and pleuro-pneumonia—which I am happy to say is not at present in this country— might also be the subject of more liberal scientific investigation than has yet been the case.
The report from America as to the recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease there states, as the result of very remarkable inquiries, that it was distinctly attributable to vaccine farms. Whether that be the source in Europe, as it has been proved to be the source in America, has yet to be the subject of investigation. If disease can be propagated in that way we must have regard to the importation of these biological products which thus bring about disease, and not only cause great loss to the cattle breeder and the farmer, but also inflict a serious tax on the 68 revenue of the State. No source of information ought to be neglected in making inquiries of this sort. I cannot help thinking, however, while it is usual on the part of agricultural Members and among scientific authorities to lay stress-upon maintaining a rigid exclusion of live cattle imported into this country from infected countries, and while I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench opposite (Mr. Long) put a supplementary question the other day to the Secretary of the Board indicating a strong view in regard to that matter, still we have also to bear in mind that the proscribing of a whole country may be too wide a measure to take. The last outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease near Edinburgh was promptly dealt with by the Board and was easily circumscribed. I wish that the cause of that outbreak had been followed up more exhaustively than was the case. I put a question to the representative of the Board on the subject and I was told that it was probably caused by infected hay from Holland, which was an infected country. No investigation appears to have been made later to follow this up, except to show that the disease was not present on the farm from which the hay came. I cannot help thinking that there ought to be a more recognised system of International notification than there is at present as to contagious diseases of animals; and more exhaustive inquiries should be made as to the localities in which disease-breaks out, so that the infected area may be kept apart, and then it would not be necessary to proclaim the whole of a large country like the Argentine, or, for the matter of that, a small country like Holland, as an infected country, from which none of our food should be derived by the importation of living animals. I do not think that science justifies that wholesale remedy. I would hope that, just as in the case of the Agricultural Department, we have heard with great pleasure of the new scientific committee set up to investigate the agricultural aspect, so we may be told that it is also the intention to institute far more exhaustive inquiries as to these diseases of animals, not only with regard to swine fever, but also with regard to others; and I hope that by arriving at a more definite scientific opinion we may make our administrative measures more in harmony with general knowledge and more effective in diminishing the diseases than has been hitherto the case.
§ Mr. WING
The question of agriculture which has been mentioned seems to cover so large an area that it might almost with advantage have a Minister set apart for the administration of that particular Department. But included in this Vote is also the great fishing industry, which suffers from having many difficulties, to some of which I should like to call the attention of the Department. Included in this question are several matters as to which I would like to express our gratitude to the Department. One of these has reference to visits by the President of the Board to various ports and conferences with the authorities there; and I wish that this might be done on a large scale, because it would be a good thing to have conferences on matters which are of very great importance to the fishing industry. For instance, one matter as to which good results might be achieved is the manner in which the fishing on the Dogger Bank is being depleted owing to the splendid equipment of the trawlers, which gives them powers of depletion of fish greater than the forces of nature to replace, and I have been told by those interested in the fishing industry that it might be possible, by devoting a sum of money for the purpose, to take steps with a view to restocking the Dogger Bank by the prevention of the catching of fish full of spawn, or small fish, or such other means as a conference of responsible representatives would suggest based on scientific knowledge and experience. The state of the Iceland coast is another matter which should appeal to every Member of the House, because there is at the present moment a very great danger to the fisherman in what has now become the greatest fishing ground, not only for our own island, but for other countries. There are very few lighthouses along that coast. This is a very serious matter, because there has been the sacrifice of a quarter of a million pounds' worth of property which was destroyed on that coast in recent years, while the number of lives sacrificed cannot be known. I am very sorry to have to drag any other country into this matter, but we are the only persons who have done nothing towards the lighting of that particular coast, and in reply to a question put to the Foreign Secretary I was in formed that there was no fund set apart for the particular purpose of lighting that coast at the present moment—
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Emmott)
I do not quite know how the hon. Member is in order in raising that question on this Vote.
§ Mr. WING
Another matter to which I should like to refer is the rule of the road in relation to vessels that are fishing. In ordinary circumstances, the rule of the road declares that when a trawler is fishing it is very difficult for it to move, and in a law case it has been declared that a trawler would be justified in retaining its position while it is fishing. It is felt by those in the trade that a rule of the road might be issued from the Fisheries Department making this more generally known. Another matter has reference to the Workmen's Compensation Act, which applies to the various members of the crew, but in no way applies to the share of the fishermen. This is felt very keenly by those who obtain payment by their share of the voyage, and possibly there might be a conference of the Fishing Department and the trade3 which would result in some arrangement being come to whereby those who are outside the limits of that Act might be brought within it. I should like to call the attention of the House to another matter, and that is that trawlers have suffered in several instances by being run down by steamers which were carrying pilots on board, and when the case was taken into court compulsory pilotage has been pleaded against the owner of the fishing vessel, with the result that no damages could be obtained from the owners of the steamer. Persons in the trade desire that the same responsibility should attach to the owners of vessels when in charge of a pilot as attach to them when they are in charge of the captain. This is not only a serious thing for the owners, but is a very serious thing for the crew. In the case in which a ship is damaged by a steam trawler or other ship, and a suit is brought by a foreign ship and the foreigners obtain a decision in their court, they can claim damages not only for the ship, but compensation for the crew. We desire that our ships should be put in a position of equality in this matter. This is a question in which the Board of Trade perhaps would have more influence.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If this is a matter which refers to the Board of Trade it can be raised on the Board of Trade Vote. I cannot possibly tell myself with regard to all these matters, but as the hon. Member speaks of the Board of Trade having more influence, then clearly it is on the Board of Trade Vote and not here that 71 this question should be raised. Perhaps the hon. Baronet can inform me as to this.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
On a point of Order. I understand that this is a Vote on Account. This includes all the Civil Services, in which the Board of Trade is included. I understand that no reduction has been moved, and therefore an hon. Member has the right to raise any question which is included in the Civil Services.
§ The CHAIRMAN
As the hon. Baronet reminds me, no reduction has been moved, and this is a Vote on Account; and until a reduction has been moved, we are not confined to any one item, and therefore the hon. Member is in order.
§ Mr. WING
This is a matter of very serious importance. Suppose a trawler is run down by a foreign steamer, and we get a verdict against that foreign steamer, we have no remedy for our crew. But if they get a decision against one of our ships we have to pay not only the damage to the ship, but we have to provide for the crew as well, and we ask that there should be some means whereby we should have equal treatment. For instance, some time ago we obtained from one of the Government Departments the same treatment for our workmen in France under their industrial laws as the French themselves, whereas previously they had not obtained those advantages; and I am asking that in matters of this kind our crews shall not be placed at a disadvantage. I ask the Fisheries Department to stand by our men, who look to them for protection, and it seems to me that the question of the Iceland coast and the protection of our men is one that calls for attention. The calling is a most dangerous one; many men who climbed those cliffs have found themselves without any guidance whatever. If beacons were placed in certain positions, pointing to where there is a refuge or in the direction of a farmhouse, many lives might be saved. When the men get thrown on these coasts, they have no idea where to go to. The German Vice-Consul at one portion of the coast has realised this and has had a beacon erected with a hand pointing to the nearest farmhouse and another beacon pointing to a refuge where there is food provided for those who may be wrecked on that coast. I do ask that on a coast which is now the most prolific of our fishing grounds we should 72 do something to show the men that the English Government do care for them and that the Board of Trade and the Department are interested in their general welfare. The industry is a large one; we have over 25,000 fishing vessels belonging to these islands, and the catch of those boats amounts to £11,000,000 a year. We have over 107,000 men employed in this great occupation, and I would ask that amid all the claims which agriculture may make upon the attention of the Government, at least some attention should be paid to the fishing industry, in which, I am sure, we are all very deeply interested.
§ Mr. BARNSTON
I think that one thing which must have struck every Member of this House is the kindly way in which Members are treated in rising to make their maiden speeches. I suppose the reason of this is that all the Members of this House who have been here for some years have never forgotten that awful and awe-inspiring moment when they found themselves addressing this House, or trying to address this House, for the first time. Being in that position, I ask the indulgence of the House while I make a very few remarks on subjects which are not only interesting to me, but which are of vital importance to the great agricultural and dairy-farming Constituency which I have the honour to represent in this House. The subject has already been touched upon, but I may be permitted to add one word to what has been said in reference to anthrax. Some three months ago I asked the hon. Baronet whether, in view of the fact that anthrax was increasing, he would appoint a Committee to inquire into the subject. He told me that the inspectors were doing all they could in various ways. Unfortunately, since three months ago, anthrax has considerably increased, and I wish to ascertain from the hon. Baronet whether he is satisfied that, with the steps he is now taking, this disease is being checked, and, if he is not satisfied, will he reconsider the position? Although it may perhaps appear impertinent on the part of a new Member to say so, I desire to emphasise this point as representing an agricultural constituency. We always appreciate the great courtesy which the hon. Baronet shows to us. At the same time, in the answers he has given with regard to anthrax he rather gave us the impression that he did not quite appreciate the supreme importance of this subject to every farmer throughout the length and breadth of the country. I wish also to 73 call the attention of the Minister to the Small Holdings Act. I think, if co-operation be needed anywhere among farmers and agriculturists, it is needed in connection with the subject of small holdings. I rejoice that the Board of Agriculture have given—as I understand—to the Agriculture Organisation Society a Grant of something like £1,600 a year for three years, under certain conditions. But, after all, that is a very small sum for the vast subject with which that body has to deal, and I hope that the hon. Baronet will be able to tell us that he hopes to be in a position to increase this Grant in the future. One point I wish to bring out in connection with small holdings is this: In my own county of Cheshire—and I suppose it is the same everywhere—speaking generally, the rents which are paid to the county council by small holders are much higher than the rents paid to the ordinary private individual or to the ordinary private landowner. Of course, the inevitable result will be, though we hear of "the people back to the land," and "the labourers charter," there will be in time an increase of all the rents of small farms which are let to email holders. I do not myself believe that small holdings can possibly be a success if the small holder has to pay a rent which no big farmer would dream of paying, and unless we obtain an adequate system of co-operation. I would respectfully ask the hon. Baronet whether he cannot see his way to increase the Grant in furtherance of this much-needed co-operation in regard to small holdings.
I hope the House will pardon my alluding to an absolutely local matter, but it is one of great importance to my own constituents—I mean the practice and fraud of selling Dutch cheeses as Cheshire cheese. I know it is perfectly easy to talk about fraud, but it is far harder to detect it. May I ask the hon. Baronet in his reply to be kind enough to give us some assurance that the Board of Agriculture are really alive to this question, and are determined, as far as they possibly can, to stop the practice? It is not merely the fact, of course, that a great industry loses a certain amount of custom in the country, but the people who buy this Dutch cheese fraudulently described as "Cheshire," do not think much of it, and they make up their minds that they will not buy Cheshire cheese again. In conclusion, if I may be permitted to do so, I join in the congratulations which have come from this 74 side of the House at the firm attitude which the Government and the hon. Baronet have adopted as regards keeping live Argentine cattle from being admitted to British ports. I think that the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease which has recently occurred in that country has thoroughly justified the course which the Government have thought fit to take. The whole agricultural community are agreed on this question, and are very thankful to the Government for the course that they have taken. I trust that the fact of this foot-and-mouth outbreak having occurred just when the agitation commenced will be a warning to future Governments to deal very carefully with this matter.
§ Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS
I should like to associate myself with the congratulatory sentiments which have been expressed that at last we have a direct representative on the Board of Agriculture to whom we can appeal, and who will be responsible for the administration of the Department. I congratulate the hon. Baronet on the fact that he has been elevated to that most important position. I am able to testify that he takes a wide and deep interest in agricultural matters, and we need have no hesitation in approaching him on this question. My special purpose in rising is to make a few observations upon the development of small holdings during the past few years. I have read the report of the Commission on this matter with considerable interest and some amount of gratification. I feel that we are able to look to the development of small holdings with a great deal of hope, after having perused that Report. Still, there is a great deal to be done in this direction, and I hope that the few-critical observations I have to offer will have the effect of spurring the Department to continued activity in connection with this work. That there have been placed upon the land some six thousand people in the course of a few years is a very good result. Nevertheless, I feel that had the county councils in the main been as sympathetic as we would desire, even a considerably larger number of people would now be in possession of small holdings. When we have the fact recognised by the Commissioners that compulsory powers have had to be exercised by the majority of county councils in the country, I think we are able to realise that the Department has had some difficulties to contend with in this direction. 75 I believe that the Board of Agriculture is at last taking the matter up with seriousness, and that they intend, wherever they deem it to be necessary, to put into full operation the powers they possess under the Act. I find that the Commissioners also draw attention to this fact. It very often happens that, owing to the high prices which have to be paid for land, and the cost involved in adapting the land to small holdings, that the amount required is often prohibitive to many a small holder. I think we here see the wisdom manifested by those" who pressed upon the Government in 1907 the desirability of preceding the Small Holdings and Allotment Bill by the passing of a Valuation Bill. Now that the Government have taken powers for the purpose of valuing the land of the country, I am not without hope that it will have the effect of facilitating the acquisition of the necessary land, and the availability of that land at more reasonable rents to those who are desirous of occupying and cultivating it.
I have been drawn into close association and interest with this question of small holdings and allotments, although I cannot claim to have the technical and expert knowledge of agricultural or horticultural pursuits that some other Members of the House possess. But that does not debar one from taking a deep interest in these matters, and I have during the past two or three years come into contact with a number of working class organisations having for their object the development of this measure, and the extension of small holdings and allotments. I am able to bear testimony to the fact that the prices of land have risen solely and simply, I believe, because of the demand created for land by the county councils being induced to put into operation the provisions of this Act. I believe it to be the fact that the land has been greatly enhanced in price wherever this demand has been created, and it has caused the retardation of this movement. But now we are able to congratulate ourselves upon the fact that the Government are inpressed with the need of valuing the land, and I trust the particulars which will be at their 'disposal will also be placed at the disposal of the county councils, so that they may be able to assure themselves that in subsequent acquisitions of land both parties are met fairly—that the landlord, on the one hand, gets a fair 76 value for his land, and that the tenant, on the other, is protected against the imposition of an unfair rent. In my own part of the country I have found applicants for small holdings also making a demand for housing accommodation upon those holdings. I must confess to some little disappointment that the various county councils have not yet taken into consideration the provision of suitable housing accommodation on these small holdings. I find that about seventy-four houses were built by county councils during the past year. The Cheshire County Council has the credit of having built the largest number, namely, thirty - five, in connection with an interesting experiment which is being conducted in that county. I trust this Department may be relied on to impress upon the county councils the desirability of taking seriously in hand the provision of the necessary housing in order that agricultural labourers and others may be afforded facilities for settling on our soil. I know that there is a considerable demand in the country for land, and that this measure is holding out considerable hope to agricultural labourers, who are contemplating the possible betterment of their lot. Therefore it is that I join with the previous speaker in the emphasis he laid upon the necessity for the development of the co-operative spirit in this matter. In the part of the country where I reside, and in the Constituency which I have the honour to represent, a most interesting experiment has been conducted — I refer to the Wayland experiment in the Walton district. There, a large farm, I believe of 285 acres, was acquired by the Norfolk County Council, and sublet to the Wayland Cooperative Association, which in turn, of course sub-let it to the members of that organisation. The Commissioners are able to report now that each one of those small holders is making a signal success of his holding. Largely, and I believe I may say mainly, due to the fact that they work on the co-operative principle. Previous speakers have also sought to emphasise this fact, but nevertheless I feel that I will not be exceeding the importance of the case if I also venture to suggest to the hon. Gentleman and his Department that the greatest hope of this important measure lies in the extension and application of the principle of co-operation. I believe that the Department have great powers in this matter. They are able, I believe, through the medium of the county council, 77 to explain the principles of co-operation to would-be applicants, and I believe it is also within their power to give encouragement for the establishment of co-operative associations. I hope they will recognise the value and success of this experiment, which is only limited because of the fact that the occupiers of this farm have not coupled with the co-operative ownership the principle of co-operative trading.
We are often told to-day that we should turn to the Continent for examples. Personally, I am not one of those who would agree that our country is suffering a great deal as compared with other nations. I believe that this country has just as great potentialities of riches and prosperity as any other nation in the world, provided we apply the necessary principles to our resources. It certainly seems to me that along the lines of co-operative developments we are able to indicate great possibilities of the development and creation of new avenues of richness and prosperity. On this Wayland estate the Commissioners tell us, with this large farm split up into small occupations, that not only is the land much better cultivated than heretofore, but that there is a larger amount of cattle being kept upon the land, and that where six or seven men only previously found permanent employment upon that farm there are fifteen men regularly employed to-day, and a further three in casual employment upon it. Therefore I think we are able to contemplate this experiment with a great deal of satisfaction, because it bears out our claim that it is by the extension of this principle that we are able to do something to palliate the great evil of unemployment and to provide men with a reasonable and honest subsistence. I do not know how far the Department might go in utilising the resources of the Development Act.
I have been listening to the very interesting speech of the hon. Member for Wilton (Mr. C. Bathurst), and it appears there will be so many demands on the Act that unless we are able to interpose at an early date there will be nothing left from the resources of that measure. I trust, whilst agreeing that the measure should be utilised for the purpose of conducting the scientific and other investigations suggested by that hon. Gentleman, that the Department will realise that in the application in the Small Holdings and Allotments Act there is a demand for the resources of that measure, and that if they are able to extend it in such a way as to 78 increase the number of owners on the soil, then they are contributing something substantial to the solution of the great social problem that affects us to-day. When this measure was in its respective stages before the House failure was predicted for it because of what was called the magic of property. We were told that unless these people—the small holders—possess the soil itself that they were not likely to cultivate it in the first and best possible way. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I notice hon. Gentlemen still hold those sentiments, but a perusal of the Reports referred to will, I hope, disabuse their minds. The statistics prove that, I think, just over 2 per cent, of the several thousand applicants for land have expressed the desire for purchase. I am no bigot in this matter. If a man desires to purchase land I would leave him perfectly free to do so. I am not now arguing the matter, but simply stating the fact as recorded by the Commissioners as to the number of applicants who desire to purchase.
§ Mr. G. ROBERTS
I am coming to that point. I may just point out that those men, even if they are members of cooperative organisations, must necessarily be persons of very slender resources. Therefore, if their money is locked up in purchase, they have nothing left for the purpose of acquiring the necessary implements for cultivation or of the seed which is requisite also for that purpose. My experience has long proved that those who are desirous of having access to the land prefer the method and principle of this Bill, for, after all, what is necessary in all those cases is that a man should have security of tenure, and it does not matter much to them then whether they stand in the position of occupying tenants or direct owners of the soil. I think the most pertinent aspect of this Report is the prominent consideration given by the Commissioners to the question of co-operation. Undoubtedly co-operation is the secret of success in Denmark. I know some people say that the great success of cultivation in Denmark is almost exclusively due to the fact that the Danish people very largely own their holdings. I believe that that would meet with the assent of the hon. Gentleman opposite.
We have this knowledge that the Danish cultivator is, in the main, a co-operator; 95 per cent, of the Danish 79 farmers are members of a great cooperative organisation, with a membership of 158,000 farms. There are also very successful co-operative export societies. They also do their own banking, putting their savings into co-operative banks, and acquiring the necessary loan also out of those banks. Furthermore, they are able to buy what is requisite for cultivation on wholesale terms, thereby saving entirely the profits made by middlemen dealing in those things. I think that we may claim honestly that the principle of co-operation in Denmark is the main cause of the great success which we know attends land cultivators in that country. Therefore, I say again, I am pleased that the Commissioners and the Board have thought well to direct the attention of this House and the country to the absolute necessity for the extension of the co-operative principle in this matter. I may also, incidentally, draw attention to the fact that railway nationalisation in Denmark is also one of the causes of success there. The cooperative collection of goods is supplemented by State attention in the matter of rates, and there they have not the complaints that many of the small cultivators have here that they are crippled by the incidence and inequalities of the railway rates.
There is just one other point for which we might desire the success of the small holder in this connection. We are now complaining a great deal of the shortage of our meat supply. I do not intend to discuss the question of the embargo on the Argentine cattle. It is not competent for me to discuss that question, because I believe the removal of that embargo would involve legislation. But still I think if we are able legitimately to increase the meat supply of our own country it is desirable that the attention of Parliament should be directed thereto. The shortage of the world's meat supply is becoming a matter of grave consideration to every working-class family in all the countries concerned. The United States' supply is not developing. I believe that the figures for the last three years show that there is an actual decrease in the number of cattle reared in that great country. That is stated to be due very largely to the exactions and operations of what is known as the great American Beef Trust. The farmer has been compelled to accept whatever price the Trust cared to offer to him. When he complained and sought other markets 80 he found that the railways were against him because there the Trust had also secured control. Here we have the fact that in spite of the great increase in the American population, the number of cattle raised is on the decrease. We cannot deny that this embargo acts as a source of protection to the British farmer. A year or two since I had the pleasure of going through the Debates that preceded the Bill of 1894 and the subsequent compulsory enactment of 1896. Some of the arguments then introduced went to show that with this measure in existence the British farmer would be greatly encouraged and that the whole production would very soon suffice for the home demands. Our subsequent experience has gone to falsify all those predictions despite the great measure of protection those Acts did give to the British farmer, who has not yet responded in a way that some of the supporters of those measures thought would have been the case. It may be that in the extension of the small holdings principle we may find the possibility of our supply being developed along those lines.
Although I am one of those who would like to see all embargoes removed, nevertheless I feel that we ought to draw the attention of the small holder and the British farmer to the fact that in this direction lies a great demand for the cattle that he might produce, and I believe that in introducing those cattle he would be creating a good source of private profit for himself. It is not my intention to discuss the embargo question, because there are other Members who desire to raise it in more direct fashion. But I submit that, having regard to the importance and gravity of the matter, the Government should seriously consider whether the time has not arrived when an inquiry should be made into the whole question. In conclusion, I hope that the more encouraging Report which the Department have been able to make on the working of the Act will serve as a stimulus, and that the Department will recognise that, although a considerable proportion of the applicants have been satisfied, there still remains a large number unsatisfied, and that when they have been able to provide the present applicants with land there will be many others anxious to embark on the enterprise. Therefore, I say that, in conjunction with the principles of co-operation, which are so emphatically advocated by the Commissioners, the Department have every 81 reason to go forward in this work, and, while as far as possible acquiring the land by ordinary negotiations, not to hesitate when occasion requires to put into operation their compulsory powers. I look upon this measure as holding out great hope of placing the agricultural labourer in a position of greater independence; therefore I wish the measure well, and congratulate the Department upon the Report they have been able to produce.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
While joining in the congratulations of the hon. Baronet, I hope that in another year we may have a day set apart for the discussion of agricultural questions, instead of having to raise them upon the first item of the Vote on Account, because under the latter procedure we are unable to come directly to an issue on any particular subject by moving a reduction of the salary of the President. I would join in the hope expressed by the hon. Member for Wilton (Mr. Bathurst) that the hon. Baronet will give us some account of what the new Committee just appointed is going to do. We know that the whole sum of £400,000 for the Development Grant has been voted by Parliament, and we cannot but assume that the new Committee has something to do with taking into consideration the schemes to which that money is to be devoted. If the money is already in hand, I hope that the appointment of the new Committee does not mean any delay in making a start with actually carrying out the Development Act. I am afraid if we press all the various matters raised by my hon. Friend we shall get from the Government their favourite observation of "Wait and see" what the Development Grant is going to do. We want to know what the ideas of the Government are, and whether they intend to give effect to them at the earliest possible moment.
The next question I wish to ask is whether the hon. Baronet can hold out any more hope in connection with the hop industry than he did at an earlier part of the Session? Two years ago the Government themselves instituted an inquiry into the hop industry. They received from that Committee a Report which they endorsed by promising legislation and actually introducing it in two Sessions, and yet, in the third Session we are met with an absolute refusal on their part to carry out that in which they have shown so much interest 82 in the past. This is a matter of vital interest to a very old industry, and I hope the hon. Baronet will be able to give those concerned in it some assurance that their interests are being considered, and that this Session, although no controversial legislation can be undertaken, a measure will be introduced by which some part of the Report of the Committee may be carried into effect at the earliest possible date. With regard to the administration of the Contagious Diseases Act, I would like to support the suggestion that the hon. Baronet should, through his Department, undertake a more particular inquiry into anthrax than has been made in connection with swine fever. There is a-great contrast in this matter between Ireland and this country; and when we see that in Ireland they have been able almost to conquer the disease, it rather proves that there are special circumstances in this country accounting for the great increase in the disease and the dangers incident to it. It is surely desirable that, when they have failed to deal with this disease on ordinary lines, the Government should undertake a scientific inquiry into the matter to see if something more cannot be done. I congratulate the hon. Baronet that, so far as sheepscab is concerned, he has gone to the root of the matter by endeavouring to deal with the disease in the more mountainous parts of the country from which the infection usually comes. In the evidence given before the Committee over which I presided a few years ago, it was made clear that the sources of the disease always came from the more mountainous districts, and that the real remedy was to trace back every outbreak and deal with it perhaps harshly for the time in the mountainous districts. That is what the hon. Baronet has done in Wales, and the better figures of the later months show that the Government have got pretty well to the root of the matter, and that if they continue on those lines they may deal with it more satisfactorily than seemed possible a short time ago.
In connection with the Order issued in May in reference to the Destructive Insects and Pests Act, 1907, I should like to know why the Government have discriminated between one particular pest— gooseberry mildew—and other pests included in the Order. It is confusing to the general public. When old Orders have been revoked and new Orders issued, it is much more convenient that the public 83 should know, and that all pests of a similar character should be included in the same Order and come under the same regulations, so that people throughout the country may understand what is required of them. At present we have the new Order for a large number of pests, some of which are very remote in their connection with this country, whilst there are two or three other Orders in force in connection with gooseberry mildew. There are certain points in the gooseberry mildew Orders which might very well have been introduced into the new order dealing with destructive pests. There is no limitation in the new Order on the importation of bushes infected with any of these pests; there is no power of dealing with people who are either engaged in picking the fruit or in moving the bushes, as there is in the gooseberry mildew Orders. The method of dealing with bushes is clearly limited in the new Order to burning, whilst in the other Orders there is the alternative of spraying. Only in the last year the Government have issued a leaflet recommending, in connection with one particular pest, the method of syringing; but in this new Order they do not allow the alternative of syringing, but insist on burning as the only method. When somewhat compulsory Orders are issued to the effect that the unfortunate grower is to destroy by burning or other effective method any plant, tree, or crops on his premises infected by moths, like the brown-tail moth and the gypsy moth, it is rather difficult for anyone to know exactly what plants are infected by moth; and to be told that he is to burn the plants which are infected is a rather large order, and one which is somewhat difficult to carry out. The whole question seems to be still involved in considerable confusion, and to my mind it greatly strengthens the recommendation made a few years ago by the Fruit Committee that the Government should be advised by an expert committee before dealing with these highly technical subjects, so that they might be dealt with in a consistent fashion. If the Board had such an advisory committee the confusion which now exists might be cleared up, the matter could be put before the people interested more clearly, and there would be a greater chance of these new questions being satisfactorily dealt with.
I hope, too, that the hon. Baronet will be able to give us more information than we at present possess in reference to the 84 policy of the Government on the question of horse breeding. We had in the Journal of the Board of Agriculture for March of this year a very interesting article, which I suppose more or less has the support of the Government, as it is published in their Journal, with illustrations. This article dealt with the best type of stallion that was to be desired in this country for the supply of military horses. It gave a description and a photograph of the type, and suggested methods by which these types could be secured. There was some criticism last year as to the character of the pictures which were arranged by the Government for the best type of military horses. I confess I do think that when the Board of Agriculture issues through its Journal and with its sanction a description of the best type of stallion for military horses, it is not very satisfactory to have this note:—With reference to type 4 (military wheeler) it has not been possible to find a stallion that meets the ideas of what we want. I have, therefore, selected a mare, the property of Sir John Barker, of unknown breed.It is a rather remarkable thing to choose a mare as the type of stallion. This animal, whose photograph is given, has been, it is stated, hard at work doing thirty miles a day on London streets. It does not appear to advantage, I think, as the best type of military wheeler, and it seems to me to show that the Government have not quite arrived at any very definite conclusion upon the matter. I do not think we shall receive very much help therefore in this matter from the contributions of the Government which have been published. It is a serious matter, and one that demands immediate settlement. I do not think we ought to be called upon to wait until the Development Grant is in full force to get an opinion from the Government upon any question. The Government have had time to make up their minds, and it is time the public should be informed as to the steps the Board of Agriculture are taking to secure the right kind of animal which, it is quite clear everyone agrees, we have not in sufficient numbers at the present time. There is only one other question that I should like to allude to. I do hope that the Government in their administration of the Fertilisers and Foodstuffs Act will take into consideration the numerous criticisms made upon it since it passed into law not very long ago. I think it has already been found ineffective for the purposes for which it was passed. The failure of the Act has been, I daresay, a good deal 85 due to the particular criticism which was alluded to—the veto of the Board. The conflict of authority between the Board and the county councils is not one that is likely to lead to an efficient administration of the Act. But it is deficient in other ways, and it is very desirable that we should have this matter of the administration of the Act very carefully looked into. If it is found to be defective the hon. Baronet should secure that it should be made effective at the earliest possible moment.
§ Mr. JOHN O'CONNOR
I shall not trouble the Committee or the hon. Baronet with any observations upon the various subjects that have been discussed in the course of the afternoon. I have only one matter; that is the subject of the importation of foreign cattle and the embargo that is at present laid upon such importation. I have the greatest possible sympathy with the concluding observations of the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. G. H. Roberts), who has alluded to the efforts that have been already made to induce the farmers of this country to increase the production of their cattle. It is no detriment whatever to the cultivation of a farm to increase the number of cattle raised upon it. It has been recently laid down by the Vice-Regal Commission, the Dudley Commission, I think, in Ireland, that the cultivation of land in Ireland to a greater degree than has occurred of late years is in no way detrimental to the production of large numbers of cattle. It was found that, in fact, while cultivation had increased—this is in reference to the breaking up of the large cattle ranches into which Ireland has been lapsing—this Commission reported upon evidence taken most carefully—by small farmers of farms that had been created from ranches which had been broken up, that the result also was an increase in the number of cattle. When the hon. Gentleman used that argument he was using the very strongest argument that could be advanced for the maintenance of the embargo. He, no doubt, as other Members of the Labour party—and we are very cognate to that party—had in his own mind the food supply of the masses of this country. He need have no fear of that! He adduced some small diminution in the production of cattle in the United States as a reason why this embargo should be taken off. During the last few moments I have been to the Library, and I find that 86 in the year 1904 there were 2,000,000 carcases imported into this country, dead and alive; for those that are imported alive are brought for the purpose of being slaughtered at the port. In 1908 this number, as given in the statistical papers published this year, showed 5,000,000 carcases. Sheep have also enormously increased. This would lead me to assure the Labour Members that, as far as the meat supply of the masses is concerned, there is no need for fear.
What is the danger of taking off the embargo? Take Canada for an example. Although Canada may have a clean bill of health so far as cattle is concerned, if the embargo was taken off the importation it would be impossible to keep out cattle which would be brought from the United States, where there is not a clean bill of health. In this connection I had a conversation scarcely a month ago with that very eminent General, the late Sir William Butler. He was engaged in military service in Canada, and travelled over nearly the whole of the country in the performance of his duties. Parts of the country that he did not cover as a military man he visited for literary purposes, and to enable him to produce those remarkably beautiful books that I hope every man in this House has read. He said that it would be impossible to police the immense border between the United States and Canada in order to prevent cattle from being brought across the border, so that they might be shipped from Canadian ports. The evidence of Sir William Butler is strongly supported by a gentleman who is highly respected in this House, especially above the Gangway on this side, namely, Sir Horace Plunkett. Sir Horace, as we all know, pays the greatest possible attention to matters of this kind. He is the founder, as we all gratefully remember, of the Agricultural Department of Ireland. What did he say a short time ago on this very subject?—If the restrictions were removed I do not believe it would be possible so to police the thousands of miles of border between the Republic and the Dominion as to safeguard us from the danger of admitting cattle from the United States. I speak with some knowledge of the subject, as I have been in charge of large herds of cattle on both sides of that border, and feel myself capableThis is a shocking admission.of dodging the police if I were in that line of business.That is the evidence of Sir Horace Plunkett, than whom there is no higher authority on this subject. These are the dangers. I will address this one concluding 87 word to Labour Members. There is an enormous danger, an awful risk, in allowing cattle to come in under these circumstances, and that risk was very succinctly pointed out by the Noble Lord who preceded the hon. Baronet in the office that he now fills. Lord Onslow used these words only a very few years ago, when a declaration had been made by the late Prime Minister on the subject. He, it may not be known to every Member of this House, was in favour of the removal of the embargo. In reply to, I believe, his own Prime Minister, Lord Onslow in 1905 used these words:—The Leader of the Opposition—Meaning thereby the late Prime Minister.in the House of Commons quite recently spoke in favour of reopening British ports to Canadian cattle. Such a step, I think, would be most impolitic and dangerous. Not so many years ago many prosperous English and Scottish cattle breeders, believing they were perfectly immune from animal disease, had sudden ruin brought upon them by the importation of a few diseased animals. In 1892 there was an embargo placed upon cattle coming from foreign countries. One animal suffering from pleuro-pneumonia by some mistake was allowed to pass through, and to trace that single case cost the country £15,000. Did anyone think the Government was going to introduce legislation which would reopen such a risk as that?Nothing has happened since that utterance on the subject to alter the circumstances under which the embargo at present is maintained. The danger of United States cattle crossing the border is as great to-day as it was when these words were spoken. The condition of the Argentine supply is exactly the same. Their bill of health is not a clean bill of health, and all the sources of supply may be said to be tainted. With that point in view, I would remind hon. Members of the attack of pleuro-pneumonia which was experienced in Scotland a very short time ago. I have not the figures by me, but perhaps the hon. Baronet will be able to say how much it cost the nation to extirpate that disease. The whole supply of the country had to be, as it were, put out of joint. The importation and exportation of foods to that part of the country had to be inspected and supervised in the most expensive manner. Surely the drastic remedies which are employed on such an occasion should indicate to all who study the question what a terrible disease this is. Therefore I submit to the House that any suggestion that can possibly be made from, I do not care what quarter, to take off this embargo, should be made only with the highest sense of responsibility and after the most 88 careful investigation. I make these few observations, not especially as an Irish representative of a large agricultural district, because the embargo was put on without any regard whatever for Ireland, and the embargo will be taken off when it suits the interests of England and not the interests of Ireland.
§ Mr. JOHN O'CONNOR
I remember it very well. The hon. Baronet says, "No." I have no doubt in the world but that the condition of Ireland is always prominent in his mind. I know this embargo was placed upon cattle out of full consideration for the interests of Great Britain. They are larger interests and more dominating interests than ours, and they are interests that affect the great and the growing Labour party whose opinions I respect, and whose views I do so much to support in this House. I submit, therefore, that if these suggestions are to be given effect to by any Government in the future, it should only be done after the most careful consideration of this, the most serious subject which could occupy the attention for many a long day.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I beg to move as an Amendment that the item Board of Agriculture and Fisheries be reduced by the sum of £100.
I agree with what the hon. Member who has just spoken has said, that the subject to which he has called the attention of the Committee is one of very great importance and difficulty. It is a subject in which there are a number of conflicting considerations, on which he certainly would be a very bold controversialist who would express a very strong and dogmatic opinion. I cannot pretend to address the Committee with the same certainty of conviction as the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, neither am I quite able to understand some of the arguments which he put before the Committee. I understood him, for instance, to say that the embargo ought to be maintained, because, if it was removed, it would be found entirely impossible to keep diseased North American cattle from coming through by land transit; that the embargo in the South ought to be preserved, because, if it was removed, there would be an outbreak over the entire Continent, as it would then be possible for North American cattle to come through. That appears to me, if you analyse it, a conclusive argument for removing the 89 embargo. There is no such embargo on cattle for slaughter in North America, and the diseased cattle in the Argentine can completely evade the whole of these regulations the maintenance of which the hon. Gentleman thinks of so much importance. I cannot help thinking that one portion of the hon. Member's argument seems to be destructive of the other. But the hon. Member has not really touched upon the most important point.
The case for the removal of the embargo is, of course, based upon the imminent danger in which the retention of it may place the meat supply of this country. If one might offer an opinion upon that, and upon sources of supply that at present exist, and the variation of those sources of supply, as disclosed by the statistical examination of the Board of Trade in the last few years, the chief difficulty arises from the supplies of beef and veal. The supply of mutton is not so very material a consideration, because there is not the same danger of disease either for mutton or pork as there is in the case of beef and veal. According to the Report of the Departmental Committee that examined into this subject, the home supplies of beef and veal at the present time amount to about three-fifths of the total supply required. I do not suppose that anybody who studied the recent history of the question will believe that the supply is likely to increase in the future. If we examine the figures we find that the number of cattle in the country, not including cows and heifers in milk and in calf, show, in fact, a decided decline in numbers.
These figures have been taken from the Board of Agriculture Report and they show that in the year 1906 there were 4,472,445 head of cattle in the country and that in 1908 there were 4,141,354 head of cattle, showing a decrease of 130,000 from the year 1906 to the year 1910. Of course, I need hardly point out that in that time the population has increased. The question that arises there is, How is this shortage of two-fifths to be supplied? It is made up by the importation of live cattle for immediate slaughter, of fresh meat, of chilled meat, and of frozen meat. It is impossible to enter upon the consideration of this question without saying a word about each of these sources of supply. Taking first of all the case of live cattle we find that live cattle are obtained from the Channel Islands—but here the supply is extremely small, being only about 1,000 or 1,500 per annum—from Canada and 90 from the United States of America. Of fresh meat there is but a very small supply in a matter of consideration of this kind and it comes principally from Denmark. The supply of chilled meat which is one of the most important comes from the United States of America, from South America, and a beginning has recently been made in bringing it from. Australia and New Zealand. Frozen meat is obtained from North and South America, Australia, and New Zealand.
Dealing first of all with the figures of the importation of live cattle the numbers from the United States of America have declined from 390,440 beasts in 1905 to 205,450 beasts in 1909, and I think that is a very significant decline, meaning as it does a reduction of 185,000 beasts in four years. During the same period, there has been a decline equally large and one which requires the attention of the House in the Canadian figures. The number of live cattle from Canada has declined during the same period from 164,184 to 113,000, which shows, to summarise the position as far as this country is concerned, that there has been a very large reduction in these two sources of supply. I do not think that anyone who studies the agricultural history of the United States in recent years will maintain that the supply from the United States is ever likely to regain its former dimensions either in the near or in the remote future. I will not go into the explanation whether it is the Beef Trust or the recent financial crisis which is the cause, but at any rate there is very little prospect that this supply from the United States in the future will reach its own figures or anything like them, and the same is true of the Canadian supply.
The Canadian supply is not likely to increase owing to the great expansion of corn-growing districts in the Dominion, which, of course, is an admirable sign of the development of the country from one point of view, but it gives very little encouragement to the idea that cattle-raising is likely to develop in the same ratio. Another important circumstance which is very often ignored is that in the last few years the United States have made large calls upon Canada for cattle. In 1906 Canada exported to the United States 4,675 beasts, in 1907 8,190 beasts, and in 1908 23,668 beasts. That is to say that during four years Canada's exports of beasts to the United States have risen from 4,000 odd in 1906 to 23,000 in 1908. I 91 have not got the later figures, but the result is that at the present moment the United States is actually importing cattle from Canada.
Upon the subject of chilled and frozen meat there has been a falling-off in the supplies from the United States of America. I have had prepared from the Report of one of the Committees that examined into this question figures dealing with this supply. I do not think It necessary at present to do more than give the figures for the years 1906 and 1909 without stopping to mention the figures for the intervening years. Taking the supplies of chilled and frozen meats from the United States to this country I find that in 1906 we imported from the United States 2,426,644 cwts., and that that prodigious quantity has fallen in 1909 to 856,805 cwts. Anyone attempting to form a judgment upon this important matter must bear in mind that decline in so short a period as three years. That is not the case with South America. In the year 1906 the exports of chilled and frozen meats from South America was 2,814,722 cwts., and in 1909 4,340,653 cwts. In 1909 there was a large reduction of supplies from the United States, a large increase from South America, while Australia and New Zealand were both able to increase their average supplies, but not sufficiently to make up the shortage from the United States -without help from South America.
There is a large business in dairy farming in New Zealand, and having regard to that fact, and that this most important experiment in the agricultural business of the Colony is going on no great increase in the raising of cattle is to be anticipated, and as to Australia the supply of cattle is and always must be dependent to a great extent upon climate and its extremes, as a severe drought at any time may spread havoc among the herds. In these circumstances I do not think anyone will suggest it is an exaggeration if the statement is made that the future of our meat supply in this country is one which may well cause grave anxiety, not only to the agricultural interests of the country but no less anxiety to the great body of the consumers and the importers. The hon. Member who sits below the Gangway and who speaks with considerable weight on these points, alluded to the threat held out to the consumers of this country by the great American trust. I do not think the hon. Member exaggerated 92 the menace to the consumer of the operation of that trust, nor am I able to see in the assurance given by the hon. Member who spoke from the Irish Benches any arguments to allay the apprehensions which have been raised. What is the position? It is well known that the firms constituting the Beef Trust have acquired much larger interests in the chilling factories in Buenos Ayres than appears upon the surface, and there is reason to believe that a large number of shares in those concerns are held by their nominees. That may be difficult to prove, but certain facts may be stated on this point. The trust has bought La Blanca and La Plata, the only works from which meat can be delivered direct into vessels sailing from Europe, a fact which gives them an immense advantage over all the other works; they have a controlling interest in the Frigorifico Argentino, and a working arrangement with La Negra, leaving only Las Palmas, Campana and Zarate, the latter quite a small con-concern, and all three some miles up the river and compelled to send their produce, chilled and frozen, by lighters to Buenos Ayres for shipment, the meat, of course, deteriorating during its journey down the river. It is thus apparent that so long as the Board of Agriculture insists upon retaining the embargo upon live cattle there is always the danger of the American Beef Trust obtaining a much greater control of the supplies, which must of necessity pass through the various chilling factories of Buenos Ayres, and thus placing themselves in a position to regulate the supplies to this country in accordance with the requirements of North America and other parts of the world. In other words, should a heavy shortage be experienced in North America, it would mean a contest between the United States and this country for the supplies they required, and this could only result in raising prices, not of necessity by the action of the Beef Trust alone, but owing chiefly to a natural shortage. On the other hand, if live cattle could be shipped by the ranchers direct to the buyers over here it would give us a supply which would, in all probability, be a great deal more constant and reliable than the present supply, as it would be out of the hands of the Beef Trust, and could not, therefore, be diverted to other parts of the world where there might be a temporary shortage. This is dealing with the question from the point of view only of the consumer of meat, but it is obvious that the present position very seriously affects a large number of trades connected 93 with the slaughter of cattle and collateral interests, such as tanners, fellmongers, gutmakers, and others, because they are unable to obtain sufficient raw material from cattle actually slaughtered in this country, and have, therefore, to a certain extent to rely upon hides being imported, and for this reason they are exposed to the danger of the controlling influence of the Beef Trust, as so many cattle now pass through their hands.
I do not suppose that anyone will contend for a moment that if it were not for the objection put forward with so much weight by different authorities, both outside and inside the House, as to the danger of contamination with English cattle that any other serious argument in favour of retaining this embargo could be put forward. I think it would be idle to ask the Government to consider the question of removing this embargo unless a real answer could be given to this danger of contamination. On this subject I acknowledge the high authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon, who has devoted so much of his life to the consideration of agricultural interests. He possesses a claim to speak on this question with weight to which I lay no claim, and I confess that the arguments put forward by my right hon. Friend are powerful and impressive, and need a serious answer. The real danger complained of by my right hon. Friend was a case of foot-and-mouth disease, and my right hon. Friend and others share the apprehension that unless this embargo is maintained there is some danger of contagion by foot-and-mouth disease. On this point I should like to offer to the Committee a few observations. The Committee which considered this question had to deal with an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the United States in 1908. No one will deny that if foot-and-mouth disease is likely to penetrate from South America to this country, it is far more likely, à fortiori, to penetrate into England from the North American market. Therefore every consideration which could be urged to-day in favour of retaining the embargo from the point of view of the danger of foot-and-mouth disease applied in 1908 with far greater force to the United States. Consequently the danger of contamination must be much greater from North America than from South America. The Board drew attention to the large commercial interests involved in the trade, and alluded in flattering terms to 'the cordial assistance and co-operation" which 94 they received from the shipping companies concerned. The Board's defence is. summed up in the following paragraph:—In these circumstances the Board do not deem it necessary, as a matter of course, to prohibit the importation of animals from the United States of America as a whole, on the occurrence of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in a particular state, in the absence of any special circumstances calculated to increase the normal risk, especially since the length of the voyage from America to Great Britain, coupled with the special precaution which it is possible to take at the ports in this country for dealing with a cargo of animals and the vessel in which such animals have been carried should disease actually be found therein afford an additional security against the risk of the disease being carried to animals in this country.These remarks apply with much greater force to the importation of cattle from Argentina owing to the fact that the voyage from thence is more than twice as long as from the United States of America, and as the Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Agriculture admitted on 14th June in the House of Commons, the voyage from Argentina considerably more than covered the period of incubation of foot-and-mouth disease, and that, therefore, no ship could touch at any port in this country without the disease, if it existed, being apparent amongst the cattle.
There is another point which certainly ought not to be ignored, and it is that practically all the various portions of animals—hides, offals, etc.—are imported into this country from other countries, from many of which animals may not be imported alive. There seems a strong presumption that hides and offals can and do convey the virus of the disease in view of the fact that the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Edinburgh in 1908 was officially declared to be due to the importation of foreign hay. Considering that these hides and offals are conveyed to all parts of the country, they evidently constitute a greater risk of disease being conveyed to the flocks and herds of the United Kingdom than would cattle landed for immediate slaughter at wharves specially constructed for the purpose, from whence no animal ever comes out alive. It would be idle for anyone to dismiss this question without making a few remarks from the point of view of the agricultural interest. I quite understand why those who represent the agricultural interests in all quarters of the House hold very strong views on this question. I know the House listens most attentively to any considerations laid before hon. Members on this point by the agricultural Members. I have had the advantage of reading what has been written by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon and other hon. Members 95 who represent agricultural constituencies, and, after giving their arguments the best consideration I can, I confess that I have not been convinced that the views I have put forward are ill-founded.
The agricultural case chiefly depends upon the apprehension which is entertained as to the effect of competition of cattle from Argentina, but to discuss the question of competition in relation to a restriction which is not supported by valid arguments is to deal with it from a point of view which has not recently engaged the attention of the House. The farmers in England are not likely to be immune to a very great danger which has been experienced by American farmers under the operation of these great associations, or Trusts, and, if we should be so unfortunate that these great American Trusts should be able to supersede the ranchers or to obtain absolute control over the ranching industry, it would be rash indeed, seeing how these Trusts, operating at a great distance from this country, have been able to make their activity felt to arrive hastily at the conclusion that the English farming industry would not suffer more from their growth and development than it is likely to suffer from competition from the Argentina.
There are many parts of the country in which the greatest and widest-spread distress has been and is being created by the maintenance of this restriction. The hon. Baronet will probably tell me, and the Committee will certainly attach the greatest weight to any statement made in that sense, if it be true, that the restriction is necessitated by considerations of health, and is in the interests of the agricultural community from the point of view of the risk of an invasion of this terrible disease. If that apprehension is well founded, it ought to be treated as paramount, and the considerations I have laid before the Committee must give way to it. I do not dispute that, if his apprehensions are well founded, or if he can satisfy the Committee, but I can point out many parts of the country with some of which I am familiar where lairage work has been entirely destroyed, and where many of the men engaged in that work are to-day starving. I might take the case of Birkenhead, of which the hon. Member for that constituency (Mr. Vivian) is fully competent to inform the Committee, and other cases well known to me. I can 96 assure the hon. Baronet that I leave the question to him in the hope he will not think I have advanced these arguments in any controversial spirit, but with the conviction that, if it is in his power to relieve the distress which is undoubtedly caused by his maintenance of the restriction, he will gladly take that step in the interest of those whose pitiful condition has led me to venture to lay the matter before the Committee.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Sir Edward Strachey)
My impression of the speech of the hon. Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool (Mr. F. E. Smith) was that he did not want to treat this question as a controversial one, but, as he ended by moving a reduction of this Vote because of the maintenance of the embargo on the importation of Argentine cattle, I thought it my duty to rise at once and offer some reply to the many assertions which he made, and which I think in many respects are not correct. I acknowledge there is a strong feeling in the House, and there has also been a strong opinion expressed in Liverpool, voiced by the hon. Member, that the embargo should be removed. A greater personage—Lord Derby —actually brought a deputation to the President of the Board of Agriculture asking that it might be removed. I shall have to go somewhat in detail into this question which has been raised so very seriously to-day. Foot-and-mouth disease existed for a great many years, and was constantly breaking out in this country. It was first recognised in 1839, and it was very prevalent in 1840 and 1841. Then it was dormant. There was another outbreak in 1849 and 1852S when it spread over the length and breadth of Great Britain. It was then again dormant, but it broke out once more in 1861, when there was a serious outbreak amongst pedigree cattle in the Royal Agricultural Society's Yard. Then it broke out at Smithfield Show in 1863, and went on continuously until 1865, when there was another lull. In 1871 it was very prevalent, not only in this country, but also in Ireland. There were 52,000 outbreaks reported in Great Britain alone. Another very serious epidemic occurred in 1872. It was calculated that in 1871 and 1872 together over 3,000,000 animals were attacked in this country. The disease spread rapidly. In 1876 there was a certain lull in the disease, and owing to very stringent regulations which were made, and to the movement of 97 cattle being very much restricted by local authorities, the disease again became dormant.
It was not till 1879 that the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act was passed. That seemed to be effective at first, because during the first nine months of 1880 there was practically no foot-and-mouth disease in this country. On October 1st, 1880, it spread over Great Britain and Ireland, and continued very actively until November, 1884, 742,682 animals being affected during that period. That shows what a serious matter the disease is when once it has hold upon the country. I think it necessary to remind the Committee of this because the younger generation do not know much about the disease, and they have never had any experience of how difficult it is to battle with it. Owing to very strict regulations imposed after that outbreak, there was no further serious outbreak until 1892, when the disease was detected in the Metropolitan Market among cattle from Denmark. There were actually 95 outbreaks during that year in Great Britain, and it was carried up to Edinburgh within a very few days of the outbreak in the Metropolitan Market. That will show the Committee how very contagious the disease is, and how very rapidly the infection is carried from one district to another. One of the arguments put forward by the lion. Member in favour of the removal of the embargo was that the disease is easily controlled, but I think all agriculturists will support me when I say that experience shows it is a disease very easily carried not only by the animals themselves but also by human beings who are brought in contact with the animals. A case occurred on my own estate. A farmer went to a market some ten miles away where there was foot-and-mouth disease. He want to his dairy that night, and within four or five days there was a serious outbreak on his farm. That will show the Committee how very easily this most infectious disease is carried from one place to another. In 1900 and 1901 there were 33 outbreaks; 935,000 animals were attacked, and 2,400 were slaughtered. In 1902 there was one outbreak, and 220 cattle attacked. The most recent outbreak occurred in 1908 in Edinburgh. It gave the Board very grave anxiety indeed, but, thanks to the efficient way the officials dealt with it, and to the assistance they received from the municipal authorities, the disease, fortunately, was stamped out, though at the cost of 98 £4,000. The outbreak necessitated the slaughter of 244 cattle, and it was introduced through hay imported from Rotterdam. Since that time we have also forbidden practically all hay and straw to come in from countries where foot-and-mouth disease exists. I hope I have convinced the Committee that the disease is most infectious, and that, notwithstanding the enormous precautions we have taken, it is most difficult to keep in control. Notwithstanding these precautions, we had the outbreak in 1908 in Edinburgh.
I proceed to consider the question of cost, and I think the Committee will agree it is a material one. It is estimated that the loss to agriculturists in this country, owing to the outbreak of 1871–1872, amounted to nearly £13,000,000. The Herefordshire Chamber of Agriculture made a Return showing that the loss to that county due to the outbreak of 187–1872 was estimated at £155,226. That will show hon. Members what a serious matter it would be to any particular county if where were an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. Any gentleman who is interested in farming will know that it is ruination for a farmer to have all his cattle shut up, and to be compelled to break his milk contracts. A former Member of this House estimated that the loss to the public by this outbreak amounted to the large sum of £10,000,000, owing to the rise in the prices of meat and milk. Undoubtedly if you have a foot-and-mouth disease in this country the price of milk must go up, for we are practically dependent for our milk supply upon the home production. There was another outbreak in 1892 which cost £15,000. Two thousand animals were slaughtered. In addition, of course, there was the cost of administration and the country had to pay a very large sum of money for administrative purposes in order to keep the disease within bounds. There was a small outbreak in 1894 which cost £1,179, 268 animals being attacked. In Edinburgh, as we have been told, £4,000 was paid in compensation, and that, of course, was exclusive of all the other expenditure on administration in putting down the outbreak. Hon. Members who were in the House at that time will remember that there was a good deal of outcry owing to the restrictions which had to be put upon the movement of cattle in and out of Edinburgh. For the first few days there was a total prohibition of all movement and the consequence was that the price of meat rose enormously. Trade was 99 entirely dislocated and at last the Board thought it necessary to issue permits for cattle to be moved within the infected area, of course, for slaughter only. That involved a great deal of trouble on the part of those who were engaged in the administration, and equally there was an increase in the price of meat. I may also remind hon. Members that in connection with this outbreak the Agricultural Board in Ireland immediately issued an order forbidding the importation of stock from this country into Ireland and it maintained the prohibition so long as there was disease in the country. The English local authorities also acted on the powers which they had, and in certain places prohibited stock being introduced from Scotland into their area, or only admitted it under very severe restrictions. Hon. Gentlemen will therefore see how seriously outbreaks of this disease interfere with trade.
I come to the case of Argentina, which takes a very large number of valuable pedigree cattle from this country, and from which our agriculturists derive a very large profit indeed, as those who deal in pedigree cattle know. The prohibition was put on Argentina, because it was exporting diseased cattle. It is true that we afterwards relaxed the prohibition with regard to England, but maintained it for Scotland. It would, however, be a very bad thing for this country if we had foot-and-mouth disease once more brought into it, and, therefore, to suggest the idea that it is unnecessary to have the strictest regulations with regard to the importation of cattle from countries where the disease had been known to exist, is altogether out of the question. The whole of this import trade of ours might be disorganised by the mere fact of one single animal suffering from foot-and-mouth disease finding its way into this country, and we should, thereupon, be subject, for a period of six months, to have our export trade in pedigree cattle destroyed or hampered. The six months would date from the time of the one animal being brought in, and we should for that period be unable to export animals to Argentina, or any other ports in the world interested in this trade. As regards America, I notice that not only in this House, but outside, comparisons are constantly being made with regard to the difference of the treatment between Argentina and the United States. It has been pointed out that with regard to the States there are only partial restrictions, 100 and not total prohibition, as in the case of Argentina. I hope my hon. Friends will be convinced when I tell them that there is a very strong reason for this differentiation between Argentina and America. As regards America no animal with disease has been imported thence into Great Britain since 1884, and this shows that America has been treating the disease with success for a prolonged period. In 1902 there was an outbreak in New England States, which was stamped out in the short time of six months. The last out break was in 1908–9—it was a serious one, involving very heavy expenditure—but the United States managed to confine to four States and to stamp it out in two months.
But what is the history with regard to Argentina? It is very different indeed from that of the United States. Foot-and-mouth disease was reported there in 1900, and on 2nd April a cargo of diseased animals arrived in this country. Up to 10th May twenty-three vessels had arrived which had started before the Board's Order prohibiting the importation of cattle was enforced. All these arrived at the Port of London, and, in addition, there were three vessels with diseased animals which arrived at Liverpool. The anxiety of dealing with these cases and the risk involved is simply enormous, lest one of the animals may escape slaughter, or somebody who has been in contact with the diseased animals may carry the disease into different parts of the country. In 1903 we had an assurance from Argentina that the country was free from disease, and the Order was revoked, but within two months the disease once more broke out, and we had two vessels arriving in Liverpool and one at Deptford with diseased animals on board. Again, in January, 1909, it was declared that there was no disease in Argentina, but, having regard to the history of the country, the Board exercised a very wise discretion, and refused to open English ports to Argentina cattle. Within a very few weeks disease had again broken out in Argentina, and in a most serious form, because it was discovered in four or five different provinces in that country. That apparently shows that although Argentina may come to the conclusion that the country is not infected they are not able to control the disease in the same way as do the authorities in the United States. Never since 1884 has disease come from the United States to this country, but, on the other hand, a very large number of cargoes of diseased 101 animals have come into this country from Argentina after that country has declared herself to be perfectly free from foot-and-mouth disease.
There is also another matter to be considered with regard to American outbreaks, and that is that the States scheduled are a long distance from the port of exportation. The information we have is that foot-and-mouth disease at the present moment has broken out in a State within forty miles of Buenos Ayres, whereas in America there is no State where disease is known to exist within 150 miles of the port whence exportation is permitted. Another question which the House must bear in mind is this, that America is bounded either by water or by countries in which foot-and-mouth disease is known not to exist. That is a very important consideration, because on the Continent of Europe it is very easy for foot-and-mouth disease to be brought over the borders from a State where the disease exists to another where there is none. It is very different in the case of Argentina. At the present moment there is a good deal of foot-and-mouth disease in the States adjoining that country. For instance, it is reported that it prevailed in Brazil on 31st March this year. There was, too, a serious outbreak at Paraguay on 21st April this year, showing, therefore, that Argentina itself is in very great danger of' having the disease brought within its borders. This is a very different state of things to that which exists in America, where they are able to stamp out the disease in a few months. A further point to be borne in mind is the effect on the supply of live stock imports from Argentina. April, 1900, was the date after which no live stock from Argentina was allowed to come to this country. But in the three years 1897–99 the average import of live animals was 82,862, which was calculated to represent about 538,000 cwt. of beef. Compare that with the present state of things. The total importation of beef from Argentina in 1901 was 805,000 cwt. In 1909 it had grown to the enormous amount of 4,278,000 cwts. of dead meat brought into this country, thus showing that, as regards Argentina, instead of our receiving a smaller amount of beef from that country, the supply has gone up in an extraordinary way, although it is quite true that it comes in in the form of chilled or frozen meat, instead of as live stock. I have some figures here which are somewhat curious and show the cost of transit of the live animal as 102 compared with that of bringing dead meat to this country. As a matter of fact, the cost of bringing a live beast to this country from Argentina is from £4 10s. to £5, whereas the carriage of a frozen carcase costs £l 8s. 6d., and that of a chilled one £2 3s. That shows that it is more economical to bring beef into this country than cattle and that when meat is brought in that form it can be sold at the lowest possible price, which would not be the case if the live animal were imported instead of dead carcases. Of course, the price of an article depends to a very large extent upon the cost of carriage, especially when that cost is high and the article has to be brought a considerable distance, and I think I have shown that the most economical and cheapest way of importing beef is to bring it in the frozen or chilled form.
It has been said by the hon. Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool (Mr. F. E. Smith) that there has been a rise in the price of beef recently as compared with the price in 1908–9 and that I think is owing to the fact that Canada sent 8,500 less cattle into this country. America also has sent in a much smaller number by 54,000, and as regards imported dead meat, she only sent in 632,000 cwt. That shows, as regards these two countries, less meat has been brought into this country either in a live or chilled or frozen form, whereas Argentina, as I have already pointed out, has enormously increased the amount of dead meat which it has sent to this country. In beef there has been actually an increase during the last year of 641,000 cwt. as compared with the preceding year, and, generally speaking, we may say that there is a continual rise in the amount of meat coming from Argentina. The same may be said with regard to our Colonies as there is a large increase from Australia and New Zealand. As regards Canada, it may be that the agriculturists there are turning their attention more to raising corn than to raising cattle, and I think it is very likely that the reason for the shortage of beef coming from America was the financial crisis there, so that farmers turned their cattle into money and sent in to the market beasts which ought to have remained very much longer there before they were slaughtered. I think it is worthy of notice that the increased supplies come from the country which sends live cattle as well as dead meat into this country, and that increased supplies also come from those countries which send dead meat but do not attempt to send live cattle as well. Perhaps I 103 ought to have stated what the difference between Argentina and America is. I should like to remind the House how much bigger a country America is, as it has an area, roughly speaking, three times as large as Argentina, but as it has a much bigger population it is much more easy to manage the disease and much more easy to trace, because in Argentina you have a very sparse population indeed. In America the population is twenty-seven per square mile, whereas in Argentina it is only five, and, of course, that makes a very considerable difference indeed as regards the power of the country to detect disease and after it has detected it to keep it under control.
The hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. G. H. Roberts) made a very interesting speech as to small holdings, and he very properly advocated that the small holder should be able to raise cattle on his holding, and I would remind him that the small holder is the man above all others who requires protection from foot-and-mouth disease, because his landlord is the county council. He would therefore be much less able to stand a serious loss from an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, because the county council would have no power to remit his rent. He would, therefore, be absolutely ruined in the event of such an outbreak, because he would have no landlord to whom he could go and ask for a reduction of rent. Therefore, I think I am justified in saying that it is in the interest to small holders that foot-and-mouth disease should not be brought into this country. I apologise to the Committee for having dwelt so long upon this question, but I should not have done it had not the hon. Member for the Walton Division moved the reduction of this Vote. It was, therefore, necessary to justify the action of the Board of Agriculture, and state the grounds upon which they acted in absolutely refusing to withdraw their embargo. When they were told there was no disease they thought it better to wait, and now the disease has broken out, their action was justified, and there is no possibility of that embargo being withdrawn. This will only make them more watchful with regard to Argentina, as they do not know how far a serious outbreak may develop. Another important point that has been raised in regard to small holdings has reference to the administration of the Board as to the question of co-operation. I can assure the House that the Board are fully alive to 104 the importance of co-operation, and certainly, as far as the Board has power, they will do their utmost to encourage it. But I would remind the Committee that the body which is charged under the Small Holdings Act to specially encourage cooperation is the county council themselves, and I would suggest to hon. Members who are members of a county council, like myself, that it is our primary duty to bring this matter before them and ask them to take it up in the light of the success which the Small Holdings Act has attained at the present moment.
In regard to doing something to assist these small holders, I would say this, that it may be necessary to give the Agricultural Organisation Society some further financial assistance, with a view to enabling them to teach a sufficient number of men who may be sent out to show the county councils how to put co-operation into effect, because it is not the slightest use of initiating such a system unless we have men who can demonstrate the advantages of it. Then I think, generally speaking in regard to this question of the Small Holdings Act, that the report of the Commissioners does infinite credit to the tact and skill of those who had to carry out a very difficult and very arduous work, as they have done, with very small complaint, or with no complaint at all. I think it will be admitted that the Commissioners and the Board carried out the duty laid upon them with tact and knowledge, and knowledge is most essential when you are dealing with land, and I am sure hon. Members who are conversant with matters of this kind will bear me out. Many other points have been raised, including that of anthrax, and as to that I can assure hon Members I am fully alive to the importance of it. One hon. Member seemed to think I was not aware of the seriousness of an outbreak of anthrax, but I, unfortunately, know, from practical experience, what the result is, and as long as I remain at the Board of Agriculture I shall always do all in my power to try to see that we prosecute our investigations into this terrible scourge in every possible way. I can assure the hon. Member that the Board and its chief veterinary officer are fully alive in regard to this fact, and are doing all in their power to see what palliatives and remedies can be applied.
As to the question of fisheries, an hon. Member stated that he desired that the President of the Board of Agriculture should do more in the way of visiting different ports, because he found 105 that such visits had done a great deal of good, and had been of very great importance. I am sure my Noble Friend will be delighted to hear that he has done so much good, and will also be delighted to visit, as far as possible, those ports and fisheries which are under his jurisdiction. As regards the question of the Development Grant, I can assure the hon. Gentleman who raised the point that the desirability of getting money for those fisheries will not be lost sight of, and my Noble Friend will no doubt use his good offices with the Board of Trade as to the difficulties which he has found exist in carrying on the fishing industry. An hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Kent talked about the state of the hop industry, and I can assure him that the Board is fully alive to the importance of this matter. The difficulty is as was shown on the Address that this matter has been treated as controversial in certain quarters of the House, but if the Government could be assured that the matter would not be treated in that spirit, we should be only too happy to do what we can to assist the hop industry without interfering with those doctrines of Free Trade which this Government can allow nothing to militate against. Then, again, as to why the mildew question was not included in the general Order issued in May, I am told that it was impossible to deal with both matters in the same Order, but I do not think there should be any difficulty in administering both the Orders because they are drawn up upon two different sheets of foolscap paper. I apologise to the House for not being able at the present moment to deal with other points which have been raised, but I do not wish to prevent the right hon. Gentleman opposite from speaking, as I shall do if I speak at greater length. I hope I may have an opportunity of dealing with the other points if the private business comes to a speedier end than we expect.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
I am very much obliged to the hon. Baronet for leaving me so much time, but the speech which he has made has rendered it unnecessary for me to speak at any length. Having an even longer experience than he has enjoyed in the administration of these Acts it is only necessary for me to say that I cordially agree and rejoice at the conclusion at which he has arrived. Noting his concluding remarks with regard to some other question, in which he told us that the sacred subject of Free Trade so 106 oppressed His Majesty's Government that they could not see a hop without thinking of it, I hope they will not carry it so far as to believe in Free Trade in disease. The hon. Baronet has told us to-day quite decisively that he did not intend to depart from the position which the Government have announced, and that they intend to adhere to their present policy. The hon. Baronet told the Committee that a great many of those who are Interested in this question and who desire the retention of existing restrictions are quite forgetful of what happened a very short time ago. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. F. E. Smith) put the case logically and powerfully. I doubt if the case for the removal of restrictions has ever been so well put as it was by him in so praiseworthy a manner, but my hon. and learned Friend asks too much of these restrictions. He asks that they shall always be logical and complete. I can speak with some little experience, having had to administer the Acts for five or six years, and having been amongst those permanent officials who have done the work always, and we were able to clear the country of two or three diseases which we found in existence when we commenced the work. This was not due to the devising of a completely logical system of restrictive laws which could be defended in every detail. I do not say there is not a good deal in what my hon. and learned Friend said in regard to the cattle which are now admitted into the country. I believe, as a matter of fact, there is no chance whatever of infection from the offal introduced into the country in a different way and under different conditions, but even supposing my hon. and learned Friend is right and there is a danger from this source, that might, and probably would, be an argument for fresh legislation or different administration in regard to these matters, but it is, in face of the facts, no argument in support of departing from the present system. Upon what foundation does that system really rest? I submit that it rests not upon suggestions, not upon forecasts that this or that will happen or might happen if you did something else. It rests on the solid experience of the last twenty years. We have an enormous advantage over other countries, and is it wise that we should surrender it? If we have the courage and determination to impose restrictions such as these we may be able to give to our country, as we have given to it, an absolutely clean bill 107 of health. What the value of that is to stock raisers it is impossible to exaggerate.
But I go a step further. I remember this agitation when it was raised in connection with the importation of Canadian cattle for sale in this country alive. The same arguments were used, and the same criticisms and forecasts were made. I speak with some knowledge of the subject when I say I do not believe that if there had been no restrictions on Canadian cattle it would have made the smallest difference to the market stores in this country within a period of, say, five years. I submit that those who ask that these restrictions should be modified or removed, while they say that we do not prove our case for their retention, have never attempted, either to-day or on previous occasions, or in the Press, to show that the free introduction of Argentine cattle for slaughter here would materially affect the market of this country. Experience tells us that though our restrictions may not be logical, though they may be open to attack here and there, under their protection we have made our cattle healthy, and we have given an impetus to the cattle-raising industry without which the figures would have been very different from what they are now. What is there to show that if you remove these restrictions you will not at once destroy the cattle industry of the country? And what is the value of that industry? An hon. Member from Ireland spoke earlier in the afternoon in support of the policy of the Government. Hon. Members opposite who advocate the removal of these restrictions are very profuse in their protestations of affection for Ireland, and of desire for her well-being, but there is no blow which would strike at the prosperity of Ireland so severely as the removal of these restrictions. The cattle industry to Ireland is of the utmost value. It is probably the largest single industry outside the North-East of Ireland. It provides a living for three totally different classes of people in three different parts of Ireland. The hon. Gentleman did well to put in a word for Ireland when the removal of these restrictions is under consideration.
I said that no one has tried to show that the removal of these restrictions would have the desired effect. The moment there is found to be some interruption in your food supply, some slight increase in price, something which makes you think that there may be a serious future in store for 108 you, it is amazing that the House invariably is asked to consider the matter from the agricultural point of view to the detriment of the agricultural interest, and it is. not asked to look at the question as a whole. I believe the shortening of the meat supply is due to causes totally different from the mere restriction of regulations which have for their object the prevention of disease. I have no objection to suggestions such as those which fell from the hon. Member for St. Pancras (Sir William Collins), who, speaking with all the high authority that he enjoys in all matters and especially in matters scientific, claimed that we ought to do all we can by inquiry or otherwise to add to our scientific knowledge on "these matters. As far as that is concerned I am with him wholly and entirely. I am in favour of any inquiry which will give us fresh scientific knowledge if necessary, but the causes which have led to the increase in the price of meat are not, I believe, traceable in any degree to the imposition of these restrictions. They are due to very different reasons. In the first place they are due to the country which used to supply us in such large quantities now making demands upon its own supplies for itself, and its populations are already consuming the meat and corn which they used to send over here. There are other causes which I cannot go into now, but it is not fair to urge that restrictions of this kind, which have been of such enormous benefit to a very powerful industry in this country, should be removed unless you can show two things. Not that there are inconsistencies as between your regulations as they apply to the United States and to South America and that under them you could have got disease. Those are not the conclusions at which you must arrive alone to justify you in finding fault with the restrictions. Surely we who believe in them and who have learnt by experience that there is no other way by which you can secure a clean bill of health for the stock of your country, are entitled to show that you must go further before you ask for their removal, and show that if they were removed you would get a benefit sufficient from your foreign market not merely to supply your present need, but to do a good deal more than that, to fill the additional gap which will undoubtedly be created if you take from the stock raiser and fattener of cattle in this country the confidence they now enjoy in knowing that there is no risk of disease in the cattle that they 109 buy. Therefore, if your contention is that our case is not fully made out, surely we are entitled to reply, if only by way of tu quoque, that before you seek to alter a law as wise and beneficial as this has been you must make a whole case and not be content with attempting to make only a part of it
The hon. Member (Mr. Charles Bathurst) made a complaint which, I think, is well justified, and if it appeared to want justification everyone must now agree that it rests upon solid foundations. He complained that our Debate on the Vote for the Board of Agriculture is to be taken on the Vote on Account. This is most inconvenient.
§ W. WALTER LONG
The hon. Baronet is mistaken. We put it first, but there is a vast difference between putting the agricultural question first upon the Vote on Account and taking that as the Debate on the Vote for the Board of Agriculture. That does not rest with us. We suggested that this should be taken on the Vote on Account, but the hon. Baronet knows as well as anyone that that is a very common practice which has nothing to do with taking the Vote itself. I hope the Government will not consider that the very short Debate that we have had will be held to discharge them from their liability to give the House a proper occasion on which the Vote itself shall be taken. If we divide the House I should vote in the opposite Lobby to my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. F. E. Smith). But, supposing his Motion was to have a fair chance on the merits, the adoption of this method of procedure makes it absolutely impossible, because no man in his senses, in whatever quarter he sits, unless he wishes to bring the whole of public business to a standstill, would move to reduce the whole Vote on Account by a certain sum because he objects to a portion of the administration of one Department. The system is manifestly inconvenient, and forces our Debates to be academic, and not practical for the purpose, at all events, of taking a Division. I have said this in order to urge on the hon. Baronet that he should urge on the Government that they ought to give us a proper and full day for discussing this Vote, which is one of the most important for which the Government are responsible. It is impossible in the time at our disposal to cover all the ground, or half the ground, which has been raised in this Debate. I 110 have said a word or two in regard to disease because I have been responsible for the administration of those Acts of Parliament, and I feel very strongly on the subject, because I believe all experience tells us that the firmest resolution is the only quality possible for this country. My hon. Friends have raised other questions of far-reaching importance to which I should be very glad to refer, and to which many of my hon. Friends would be very glad to make their contribution; but if we are to regard this as the only occasion on which the Vote for the Board of Agriculture is to be Debated, it is quite evident that the discussion will be very inadequate. I am very sorry to have had to intrude. I will not attempt to discuss the question of small holdings. Another very important question, that of agricultural education, has been raised.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wilton (Mr. C. Bathurst) raised that question, but I have no doubt the hon. Baronet had not time to include it in his reply, which he courteously made short in order to give others time to take part in the Debate. Here again I speak with some knowledge of my own. I know how extraordinarily difficult it is to get more money from the Treasury for Agricultural educational purposes, and I am bound to say that so far the reward we have had in our experience of the agricultural education already provided is not very great. We have turned from the country during the last few years a very large number of agriculturists who, in our various colleges and schools, have acquired special education which gave them practical knowledge. But the difficulty which many of these men have found is to get a living in the country, notwithstanding their knowledge, and that is a thing which makes us pause and wonder whether we are on the right course. There is a great deal to be said on the question of agricultural education. I believe it ought to begin in the elementary schools. I believe a great deal of the time given in the elementary schools to history, arithmetic, and other subjects, might be given with greater advantage to many of the children to a sound elementary education in agriculture. It is obviously impossible to deal properly with a question of this vastness at this period of the evening. I say this in order to make it perfectly clear that we do not regard, and cannot be expected to regard, the time at our disposal as sufficient for the subject now under debate.
111 I pass from education to the small holdings question. The hon. Baronet at the end of his speech was good enough, when talking about the dangers which would come if disease were introduced to remind the small holders the Government have been so anxious to create, that if they suffered reverses owing to disease in their cattle, or from other causes, the county council will not be willing to listen to an appeal for a reduction of rent, and that they will find themselves in a much harder case than if they were tenants of the landlords. I thank the hon. Baronet for this tardy recognition of the views which we have held on this side of the House for a very long time, and I hope, if only at the eleventh hour, the Government are gradually coming to some sort of repentance, and that they may find a wiser policy for the people of this country who may wish to have small pieces of land. I think it would be a very great advantage if we were to discuss this question of the administration of the Small Holdings Act on a proper occasion. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite have been very eloquent outside on this subject, and I have no doubt that they would be equally eloquent in the House. I would much rather have an opportunity of answering their speeches in the House than of watching them wandering about the country making those speeches which are reported in the Press. On the question of small holdings there is much to be said.
I thank the Government for the course they have taken in regard to the main topic of our Debate to-day, namely, the administration of the Act in regard to the diseases of cattle. I know that they have not taken this course without some difficulty. I know that great pressure has been brought to bear upon them, and I believe we are greatly indebted to the hon. Baronet for the consistent and courageous way he has throughout presented the case for the retention of those restrictions, even although it has no doubt entailed on him for the time being political unpopularity, for he is not likely to suffer from any other. I venture to say that in what he has done he has rendered very great service not only to the agricultural interest, but to the community generally. I believe this is a question which largely affects the prosperity of the country as a whole, and I thank the hon. Baronet for the courageous part he has played. I hope that those who still believe that a case has been 112 made out for the removal of the restrictions will realise that they must not rest content by saying that the laws are insufficient as they stand. They must go further and show that if this grave and serious experiment were to be made they have some good evidence which would make us believe that the result would not only justify the experiment, but would render infinitesimal any risk of a heavy increase in price or a reduction in the amount of the food supply. Without that evidence I venture to say that no case has been made out.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the DUCHY of LANCASTER (Mr. Joseph Pease)
I think it was a little unfair of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Long) to suggest that the Government is in any way trying to evade discussion on the agricultural Vote.
§ Mr. JOSEPH PEASE
We were quite prepared to give an opportunity for the discussion of the agricultural question on the ordinary Vote, but it was suggested that it would be convenient that the question should come first on the Vote on Account, and no exception was then taken to that course.
I rise to make a few observations concerning the proposal to remove the embargo from Argentine cattle. I do not think those who are in favour of this removal can be charged with not realising the difficulty in which the Board of Agriculture find themselves. We realise that they have a very onerous duty to perform in seeing that the country is free from disease, and we agree that they ought not, without due inquiry, to remove this embargo at the risk of importation of disease, but we do feel that there is just the danger of our resting on the question and allowing interests to grow up behind the embargo, and failing to realise that the time may have come to inquire whether it is not possible to remove it. Everyone who knows anything of the nature of a restriction on the import of a commodity knows that gradually it creates a vested interest in the retention of that restriction. That not only applies to meat, but to other commodities, and some of us feel that there is just a possibility of this question being kept going' not owing to the risks of 113 disease, but owing to the interests that grow up in connection with the restriction. I think we are justified in putting that point. Every newspaper and magazine article on this question, when the removal of the embargo is opposed, states side by-side with its opposition to the import of these cattle the argument that agriculturists have been having a really good time. If time permitted I could give to the House quotations from quite reputable papers, in which more stress is laid on the inflated price which agriculturists have been able to obtain because of the competition avoided than because of the risk of disease. I do not think any of those who are taking part in the agitation pretend that they have all knowledge of this particular question, and that there is nothing to be said on the other side of the case. I wish to emphasise the point raised by the hon. and learned Member opposite. I think we are justified in referring to the Report of the Committee in 1903. That Report directs attention to the fact that in the case of America we were able to locate the disease, and not to make the prohibition or embargo apply to the whole of the States. I do not think the Secretary to the Board of Agriculture gave an adequate reply on that particular point. He drew attention to the fact that the Argentine was not quite so well governed as the United States.
Not so well governed on this particular point. I do not wish to put words into the hon. Baronet's mouth, but I understood him as saying, at any rate, that so far as the administration of the Argentine was concerned
§ Sir E. STRACHEY
I never said that the precautions were not quite as good on paper as those of America, but I pointed out that the difficulties were much greater there, though the precautions might be as good on paper.
So far as administration was concerned the Argentine was not so good as the United States. I would like to direct attention to what is meant by the embargo on cattle coming from the whole of the Argentine Republic. The Argentine is, roughly, as large as Europe. Imagine a prohibition being put on cattle grown around Frankfort because disease had broken out in Aberdeen. It does seem to me that it should be possible for the Government of the Argentine and our 114 Board of Agriculture to devise regulations which would enable those territories where disease breaks out to be located, and to make the prohibition apply to a reasonable area around a district where the disease has broken out. That is what is done in the case of the United States. I admit to the full that no amount of sentiment about unemployment or industry being injured would in itself justify the removal of this embargo if there was risk of disease being imported as a consequence of its removal.
And, it being a Quarter past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.